In this online exclusive of the Bourdain narrated PBS series Mind of a Chef, Sean Brock learns to cook West African Theibou Yapp—which is essentially Southern Hoppin’ John with meat—during a visit to Senegal. Here’s what Sean Brock has to say about the dish, which includes broken rice, fermented fish, onions, chili, carrots, cassava, and bitter eggplant:
“I remember the first time I went and learned this dish—it was lamb shanks with broken rice and African cowpeas. To me, that was extremely exciting, but I didn’t think I was going to learn something that was the missing link in Southern cuisine. They flavor that dish with fermented, dried, smoked, and salted seafood—everything from sun-dried clams, to smoked oysters, to fermented sea snails. I thought it was so strange—I mean, fermented sea snails with lamb shanks and rice and peas?
But then you’re eating it, and you realize how familiar it is on your palate, and in your brain, and emotionally. It’s their way of getting umami into peasant dishes the way we use ham hocks and bacon and jowls and sidemeat and country ham. It’s that glutamic acid that we crave as human beings, and that poor people use to make a pot of beans seem more fulfilling.”
The Senegalese woman who shows the recipe to Brock says that “eating was a way of educating kids.” It taught them how to share, to be polite, and so many important lessons, agrees Brock.