The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Friday, 24 June 2011

Banana fritters in Cotonou

I know, I know, I am terribly behind. It started so well, almost a post a week and then...where did it all go wrong? Probably I just have to confess it: I am officially a *lazy bum*. That's it.

But it is also true that I had promised myself to keep this blog going if by now I had reached 100 followers...ahahaha...funny! I just hit 30...although my stats tell me that secretly there are more readers than it seems. This makes me feel better.

So, where were we? Or rather, where have I been?

I thought it would have been unfair to ignore my brief visit to Benin.

For those who have no idea where Benin is - and there are many, so don't despair and throw your hands up thinking you are zero at geography - it is in Africa. Actually, the majority got this far. Africa. But where in Africa? Benin is sandwiched between the oily sister Nigeria and Togo. It is very thin and long with a coast line that can be crossed in a few hours.

I was in Cotonou. Officially the capital is Porto Novo, a Portoguese colony, but Cotonou has become the biggest city - a jumble mix of busy roads and dusty alleys. No much dust when I was down there though but more like a lot of paddles or pools as it was the rainy season and roads turn into big craters where I could have even swam.

Having become the capital without wanting it, Cotonou has really nothing to be seen. I have tried to be positive but I could really not think of anything. Except the people. Without sounding like a friend who seems to find everyone "lovely", I do admit that everyone there was really nice. Welcoming and not at all suspicious. Taking photos though is an issue - I was told that many women found themselves on cards without having been asked (and of course without receiving any percentage from the sale!).

So none of my photos are very good. I often had to pretend I was shooting a landscape or some weird objects in the far distance...

Also, what women carry over their head is simply phenomenal. They gave me a headache just by looking at them. Tins, eggs, fruit, bread...

And the patterns and colours of their dresses! Benin is famous for a very striking, hippy fabric which the Dutch "stole" and turned into a huge fashion business called "Vlisco". I thought of buying some of it and make a pajamas...

The aching part was the food. You really need to know where to go and get your meals or you could end up with some very odd concoctions.

The first night I was on my own and I decided not to go to the easy option (the American fellow next to me ordered *spaghetti bolognese* dai!) and opted for the local dish.
Now, don't laugh at me but maybe this time I wasn't all that right. I wished at some point I had a little dispensable bucket where I could hide the food I was moving around with my fork. I tried to look enthusiastic without lying and expressed a very "lonely-planet comment" *it was an interesting dish!!*.

I tried to trick the waiter in believing that I had liked it by asking to write down for me the name of the dish... Not sure it worked.

I can confidently say though that you shouldn't miss "brochette de poisson" - fish skewers with local vegetables and served with rice - and banana/yam fritters. Almost every lady at the side of the streets, especially the secondary ones, will be happy to serve you a warm parcel of fried bananas or yam chunks. Yam, for those who don't know it, is like a potato but sweet and quite firm in flesh.

The banana is slightly coated in egg yolk with cinnamon and pepper.

As always, I cannot miss markets. And there you won't leave disappointed with the amount of crazy stuff available for sale...even live chickens!

Going back in October. On the hunt for some yummy recipes...;D


  1. Great pictures!!! and interesting post, now I will know where exactly Benin is ;)

  2. Glad my posts are somehow useful... ;D