Judging by the number of billboards, Senegal's best-selling food product is stock cubes—but if you're persistent, you'll encounter plenty of zesty meals there without instant bouillon. And if you're a soul-food fan, you're in luck: by virtue of the slave trade, Senegalese cuisine was one of the key influences on African-American cooking. Senegal's Atlantic coastline ensures an abundance of seafood—grouper, monkfish and sea bream are common—while peanuts, millet and cassava are harvested from the central savanna area. Given Morocco's proximity, couscous is almost as widespread as rice—so are baguettes and Dijon mustard, legacies of French colonial rule. Sample this melting pot at Chez Mimi, tel: (221) 823 9788, or Keur Ndeye, tel: (221) 821 4973, both in the capital, Dakar. But if you want something that's all Senegalese, order the national dish of tieboudienne
—a spicy fish and tomato rice—and a round of attaya
, which is tea with mint. Served in tiny cups, attaya
is a generations-old ritual. Best of all, there's not a scary flavor enhancer in sight.