Vibrant markets in West Africa

As soon as you leave the hotel behind, you are already in the middle of it. Surrounded by people who all have something to offer. Drinks, snacks, phone cards, but also things for which a tourist has no use at all. Manioc tubers for example or huge fish. Freshly caught and certainly worth their money. Almost everything is carried in colorful bowls on the head and is thus not to be overlooked even in the crowd. Sellers do not have to be searched for long, because they make eye contact with potential buyers directly under the goods.

Frau mit interessantem T-Shirt verkauft Bananen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Kasava Blätter in Makeni, Sierra Leone / © Foto: Georg Berg

The eye also eats in Sierra Leone – the staging is also important / © Photos: Georg Berg

30 Kilo Fisch werden in Sierra Leone mit Haltung transportiert / © Foto: Georg Berg
30 kilos of fish are transported in Sierra Leone with posture / © Photo: Georg Berg

Finger food at its best

Roasted corn on the cob, fresh peanuts, mangos or thin long banana chips in quantities that can be consumed immediately should not be missed, nor should coconut milk from the freshly cracked nut.

Hauchdünne Bananenchips frisch hergestellt sind ein Genuss, für den allein sich eine Reise nach Sierra Leone lohnen würde / © Foto: Georg Berg
Wafer-thin banana chips freshly made are a treat for which alone a trip to Sierra Leone would be worthwhile / © Photo: Georg Berg

Mental back training

The skill of people balancing their purchases home even on their heads makes their own posture better just looking at them. Despite the heaviest loads, there are no collisions in the dense crowd.

Säckeweise Peperoni sind zwar nicht schwer, aber gegen die Schärfe der Schoten hat sich eine Lage Plastikfolie auf dem Kopf bewährt / © Foto: Georg Berg
Sacks of chili peppers are not heavy, but a layer of plastic foil on the head has proven effective against the hotness of the peppers / © Photo: Georg Berg
Inneres Gleichgewicht verhilft zu anmutigen Bewegungen; auch beim Gang in den Garten / © Foto: Georg Berg
Inner balance helps to move gracefully; even when walking in the garden / © Photo: Georg Berg

With so much on offer, it is hard to believe that the supply situation in Sierra Leone was very critical just a short time ago. During the Ebola epidemic, which lasted until the end of 2015, public life came to a standstill and agriculture could also no longer be practiced. This caused a shortage of crops at the time and continues to have an impact on seeds today.

Intensive Flächennutzung bedeutet in Sierra Leone: Ölpalmen stehen in Reisfeldern / © Foto: Georg Berg
Intensive land use means in Sierra Leone: oil palms stand in rice fields / © Photo: Georg Berg
Kinder arbeiten in Sierra Leone mit. Über weite Strecken holen sie zum Beispiel Reis vom Feld / © Foto: Georg Berg
Children work in Sierra Leone. Over long distances, they fetch rice from the fields, for example / © Photo: Georg Berg
Die Grundnahrungsmittel Reis, Bohnen und Maniok-Mehl sind für die Bevölkerung Sierra Leones besonders wichtig. Nach der Ebola-Epidemie stehen sie wieder in ausreichender Menge zur Verfügung / © Foto: Georg Berg
The staple foods rice, beans and cassava flour are particularly important for the people of Sierra Leone. After the Ebola epidemic, they are once again available in sufficient quantities / © Photo: Georg Berg

Fish – good and rich in protein

The coastal town of Tombo, near Freetown, is the center of Sierra Leone’s fishing industry. 700 small fishing boats go out to sea every day and each of them provides work for 50 people. It is the fishermen, but also the young men, who unload the fish on the beach. They each carry 30 kg of fish in bowls on their heads. On land, these fish are then sorted and sold by women.

Noch am Strand von Tombo werden die frisch gefangenen Fische sortiert und zum Markt gebracht / © Foto: Georg Berg
Still on the beach of Tombo, the freshly caught fish are sorted and brought to the market / © Photo: Georg Berg
Eine gute Portion Fisch aus dem Atlantik. In Sierra Leone wird kein Lebensmittel lange gelagert, sondern meist frisch zubereitet / © Foto: Georg Berg
A good portion of fish from the Atlantic. In Sierra Leone, no food is stored for long, but is usually prepared fresh / © Photo: Georg Berg
Rochen haben keine Gräten und vor allem die Flügel sind gebraten ein besonderer Genuss / © Foto: Georg Berg
Rays have no bones, and the wings in particular are a special treat when fried / © Photo: Georg Berg

But these processes, which have been well-rehearsed for generations, are in danger because large fishing fleets are increasingly approaching coastal areas from international waters in an uncontrolled manner. In doing so, they not only empty the fishing grounds. Fishermen have also complained to us about cut nets.

Der Hafen von Tombo hat kein Becken. Es ist ein Strand, 40 Kilometer von Sierra Leones Hauptstadt Freetown entfernt. Von hier aus fahren 700 Fischerboote aufs Meer hinaus / © Foto: Georg Berg
The port of Tombo has no basin. It is a beach, 40 kilometers from Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. From here, 700 fishing boats head out to sea / © Photo: Georg Berg

But Tombo is also known in Sierra Leone for its soccer academy, where boys and girls receive first-class schooling as well as soccer training at the highest level.

French cuisine in Sierra Leone

At idyllic Mama Beach, we met Manuel Geslain, who moved from France to the specialty restaurant Eden Park Resort in 2010. Geslain started out as a chef in Grenoble. Via Bordeaux, his path led him to Paris to the legendary Hôtel de Crillon, where he was responsible for the starters. In Sierra Leone, his cuisine continues to have a French influence. He even imports many ingredients from Europe. In Sierra Leone, Gaslain is particularly enthusiastic about the quality of the fresh fish, and he recently started a small herb farm. He particularly raves about lobster, grouper, Atlantic bonito, barracuda, mangrove bass, plaice and shrimp.

An einem unberührten Sandstrand liegt das Eden Park Resort. Ein beliebter Treffpunkt mit französischer Küche und tropischen Akzenten / © Foto: Georg Berg
On a pristine sandy beach is Eden Park Resort. A popular meeting place with French cuisine and tropical accents / © Photo: Georg Berg

After eleven years of civil war, the flow of tourists to Sierra Leone slowly resumed since 2002. However, the Ebola epidemic abruptly halted the upswing in 2014. Geslain nevertheless stayed in the country and cooked for a British aid organization that took up quarters in the Eden Park premises.

No refrigerator or running water

In Sierra Leone, food is sold only fresh or dried, and only in quantities needed for daily consumption. Refrigerated or industrially packaged products and supermarkets are scarce, even in the larger cities. In rural areas, few homes have electricity or running water.

Wichtiges Küchengerät in Sierra Leone: Im Mörser können auch große Mengen zerkleinert werden / © Foto: Georg Berg
Important kitchen utensil in Sierra Leone: Large quantities can be ground in a mortar / © Photo: Georg Berg
Gekocht wird in Sierra Leone draußen in großen Töpfen auf offenem Feuer / © Foto: Georg Berg
Cooking in Sierra Leone is done outside in large pots on an open fire / © Photo: Georg Berg

Stews do not have to be monotonous

Typical of Sierra Leonean cuisine are spicy thick sauces that are eaten with local gray brown rice or cassava roots. Leafy vegetables, local red palm oil, red and green chili peppers or peanuts are the main ingredients of most stews.

Jede dieser Chilli-Portionen kann sogar einem großen Gericht scharf einheizen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Any of these chili portions can add heat to even a large dish / © Photo: Georg Berg

Cassava leaves, along with potato and jute leaves, are optional leafy vegetables for green sauces. In local eateries, they are served on a set rotation on different days of the week: cassava on Mondays, potato leaves on Tuesdays, and jute leaves on Wednesdays.

In Sierra Leone sind auch die Blätter der Kartoffel ein wichtiges Nahrungsmittel. Diese Frau bringt ihren Einkauf heim / © Foto: Georg Berg
In Sierra Leone, potato leaves are also an important food. This woman brings home her purchase / © Photo: Georg Berg
In ihrer Konsistenz gleicht die beliebte scharfe Cassava-Soße püriertem Spinat. Abgebildet ist eine Restaurant-Portion. Hausgemeinschaften essen in Sierra Leone üblicherweise gemeinsam aus einer Schüssel / © Foto: Georg Berg
In consistency, the popular spicy cassava sauce resembles pureed spinach. Pictured is a restaurant serving. House communities in Sierra Leone usually eat together from one bowl / © Photo: Georg Berg

The thing with the soup cube

Meat or fish are among the better dishes and in the unfavorable (more common) case soup cubes. The small colorful cubes are ubiquitous even in the most remote settlements. This Western influence has largely supplanted sounbareh, traditional in Sierra Leone, as a condiment. It consists of fermented carob seeds. The variant ogeri consists of fermented sesame seeds.

Wie alle Lebensmittel werden Gewürze in Sierra Leone in kleinen Portionen verkauft. Häusliche Vorratshaltung ist nicht üblich / © Foto: Georg Berg
Like all foods, spices in Sierra Leone are sold in small portions. Domestic storage is not common / © Photo: Georg Berg

The cassava tuber is one of the most important sources of carbohydrates and is indispensable for nutrition in the tropics because the plant grows very well even during dry periods and, as a perennial, can be harvested all year round. Cooked cassava tubers can be easily peeled before consumption. Cassava leaves, unlike tubers, are rich in essential proteins.

Maniok-Knollen werden mit Naturfasern zu Verkaufseinheiten zusammengebunden. Das exakte Verkaufsgewicht spielt in Sierra Leone eine untergeordnete Rolle / © Foto: Georg Berg
Cassava tubers are tied together with natural fibers to form sales units. The exact sales weight plays a subordinate role in Sierra Leone / © Photo: Georg Berg
Auf jedem Markt in Sierra Leone werden Cassava-Blätter frisch durch den Wolf gedreht und in Plastiktüten verkauft / © Foto: Georg Berg
At every market in Sierra Leone, cassava leaves are freshly put through the grinder and sold in plastic bags / © Photo: Georg Berg

All dishes are simple and nutritious. Peanuts are made into a tasty soup often with a fish chowder. Vegetables like okras, eggplants or black-eyed beans are part of a varied cuisine, as well as millet and various sweet potatoes or plantains.

In Sierra Leone gibt es verschiedene Auberginensorten / © Foto: Georg Berg
In Sierra Leone there are different eggplant varieties / © Photo: Georg Berg
In Sierra Leone können Palmöl-Früchte das ganze Jahr über geerntet werden / © Foto: Georg Berg
In Sierra Leone, palm oil fruits can be harvested all year round / © Photo: Georg Berg
In Westafrika werden große Mengen Palmöl verbraucht. Hier wird es frisch und unbehandelt verwendet. Durch den hohen Gehalt an Beta-Carotin ist es rot gefärbt / © Foto: Georg Berg
In West Africa, large quantities of palm oil are consumed. Here it is used fresh and untreated. Due to its high beta-carotene content, it is red in color / © Photo: Georg Berg

Fermented palm wine(poyo) is a popular drink among Sierra Leoneans. However, connoisseurs buy it only from personally known trusted people, who bring it down fresh from the palm crown and do not dilute it with water.

Sauberes Trinkwasser wird in Sierra Leone in Plastiktüten verkauft. Man beißt eine Ecke ab und mit etwas Übung kann man trinken, ohne nass zu werden / © Foto: Georg Berg
Clean drinking water in Sierra Leone is sold in plastic bags. You bite off a corner and with a little practice you can drink without getting wet / © Photo: Georg Berg

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This research trip was supported in part by the Tourist Board Sierra Leone

Food topics on Tellerrand-Stories

Our mode of operation is characterized by self-experienced, well-researched text work and professional, vivid photography. For all stories, travel impressions and photos are created in the same place. Thus, the photos complement and support what is read and carry it further.

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