Senegal’s national dish, thieboudienne, has a crucial, pungent ingredient: the fermented flesh of sea snails. Known as yete (alternately spelled yet or yeet), these large marine mollusks are buried in the sand for several days, then sun-dried. Only then are they ready to impart a “signature saline funk” to Senegal’s signature fiery fish-and-rice dish.
Some diners say the yete has a leathery texture, a smoky aroma, and a briny flavor that also tastes a bit musky. Though there is no true substitute for snail flesh, in its absence, cooks opt for Southeast Asian fish sauce to impart a comparable brininess. But many claim that yete is less intense than the other aquatic flavoring added to thieboudienne. Guedge, a dried, fermented fish also integral to preparing the traditional dish, is rank enough make yete seem relatively mild.
Need to Know
The easiest way to get a taste of yete is to try thieboudienne. Look for it also spelled as ceebu jën.
Where to Try It
Le Djembé56 Rue St Michel, Dakar , Senegal
This restaurant is known for its thieboudienne. It's open noon to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Marché KermelRue de Essarts, Dakar, Senegal
This gorgeous, open-air building features many vendors selling fresh and homemade foods inside.