Poisson Yassa is a spicy dish prepared with onions and marinated poultry (poulet) or fish (poisson). Originally from Senegal, yassa has become popular throughout West Africa. Another even more important gift from the region is the “preserver of African traditions”, the Griot.
Africa has a strong, deep, and rich oral tradition. In many countries across West Africa, this tradition is often preserved by the griots (gree-ohs), who are historians, storytellers, poets, and musicians. Often, the griot is the preserver of the history of a family, clan, and sometimes of the whole nation. This is done by narrating how the family/clan/tribe/nation was founded and its outstanding achievements. In essence, the griot is a repository of the oral tradition.
“The West African griot … knows everything that is going on… He is a living archive of the people’s traditions… The virtuoso talents of the griots command universal admiration. This virtuosity is the culmination of long years of study and hard work under the tuition of a teacher who is often a father or uncle. The profession is by no means a male prerogative. There are many women griots whose talents as singers and musicians are equally remarkable.”
To this day, mostly through song, griots carry this important responsibility from one generation to the next so that the stories and lessons of the past will never be forgotten. It’s not clear if part of their responsibilities consist of handing this simple-yet-delicious fish dish to the next generation. If not, it should be.
Poisson Yassa – Senegalese Fish in Mustard Sauce
- Large skillet
- Fish Spatula
- 2 medium Lemon, juiced
- 3 tbsp Vinegar (cider or white)
- 1 large Onion, sliced
- 4 cloves Garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp Fresh basil and/or parsley, chopped
- 1 medium Chile pepper, cleaned and chopped
- ½ tsp Cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp Soy sauce
- 3 lb Firm white fillet, skin on
- 1 Large Onion, diced
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Bay leaf
- ½ cup Water
- ½ cup Vegetable oil
- Marinate – Rinse fish and pat it down with paper towels. In a sealable plastic bag, add marinade ingredients and fish filets. Seal bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Cook Fish – Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fish, skin-side down, and cook until crispy, about 7 minutes. Carefully flip pieces and cook for a short time until other side becomes crispy and the fish is cooked through. Remove fish to paper towels and drain off all but 3 tbsp oil from pan.
- Make Sauce – Fry the chopped onions in remaining oil over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add bay leaf, mustard, and remaining marinade. Fry for 5 minutes. Add water, cover, and simmer 5 minutes more. Remove cover and take out the bay leaf. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Finish Dish – Place fish filets atop the onion sauce and cook, uncovered, until sauce thickens, another 5 minutes.Arrange fish on a serving platter and pour sauce over the filets. Serve with rice.