Zesty African Cuisine

Make use of zesty fruits for this dish.

Chicken Yassa is a light, lemony dish. It hails from the African countries of Senegal and Gambia (often referred to as “Senegambia”), and it matches perfectly the upbeat temperament of Africa’s “smiling coast”.

Along the ‘smiling coast’, it is impossible to walk down the street without someone stopping you for a chat – so when I asked Lamin, the chef at a local restaurant, what went into Gambia’s signature dish, he was more than willing to oblige.

On an interesting, non-culinary note – all members of the Gambian Mandinka tribe call their first-born sons “Lamin”.

Chicken Yassa is best served with rice – an African staple. It’s also a good meal to prepare several hours ahead, as the flavour will only improve over time.

To feed 4, you’ll need:

  • 4 chicken breasts, chopped (or a similar quantity of beef, pork etc)
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup lemon juice (try to squeeze some fresh, rather than using bottled stuff – it’s much nicer)
  • 3 chicken stock cubes, crushed
  • ½ a bulb of garlic, crushed
  • 6 onions, chopped
  • 3 tsp ginger (freshly grated is best, though you can use dried powder)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
  • Cooking oil


1. Combine all the ingredients (except for the chicken and onions).

2. Pour half of the mixture over the chicken pieces, and stir until coated.

3. Cover and place in the fridge, for at least two hours (but ideally overnight, to let the flavours really soak into the chicken).

4. When ready to cook the dish, heat some oil in a pan, and fry the chicken mixture with the onions until the chicken is mostly cooked.

5. Add the rest of the marinade, and continue to cook until the chicken is done (white meat all the way through – cut a couple of the larger chicken pieces in half to check).

6. Serve with white rice.

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