Gastronomy in Benin

As in most West African countries, the streets and markets are full of tiny stalls where food is cooked in basins by what people call ‘good women’. Check for crowds at meal times, which is a good sign.

When these stalls are a little bigger and have a few tables and chairs they become bush. You can find some more or less expensive ones. But generally speaking, a dish in the “good women’s shops”, as they say, costs barely 500 CFA francs, whereas in the maquis where you eat with a plate and cutlery, a dish will cost up to 1,500 or 2,000 CFA francs. Other women carry on their heads all kinds of food gathered on a tray (doughnuts, cakes…).

Some specialities from Benin

  • Akassa: fermented corn (possibly millet) paste accompanied by a sauce.
  • Akpan: fermented maize porridge with the bran removed and drunk with milk, sugar, etc.
  • Amiwo: red maize paste. Less bland than the white one because it is separated with a tomato purée mixed with onions and chilli pepper. It is also served with a sauce.
  • Gari : semolina made from finely chopped cassava flour, used a bit like gruyère (without the taste) on rice, spaghetti or a sauce.
  • Fufu: crushed yam forming a paste with a light, pleasant taste.
  • Aloko: as in all the countries of the Gulf of Guinea, these are fried pieces of plantain banana.
  • Moyo: a sauce based on tomato, onion and chilli pepper that often accompanies fried fish.
  • In the Pakarou region but also in the Mono region, in the south-west, you can find Peul Wagassi cheese, with a red rind that reminds one of mozzarella. But here the cheese is fried and then dipped in a spicy sauce. Excellent!
    Of course, there are spaghetti and rice, as well as fish, meat (including grilled pork, a speciality of the Porto-Novo region), vegetables and fruit.

Drinks

  • Absolutely avoid tap water, except in Cotonou where it is treated and drinkable.
  • Possotomé water: it is very good and has therapeutic virtues. It is water collected in the village of the same name in the southwest of the country, on the banks of Lake Ahémé. It can be found in capped plastic bottles, in all refreshment stands and grocery stores.
  • The Beninese: the national beer, not very alcoholic and quite good, served in half-litre bottles. But there is also the West African Flag.
  • Sodabi: palm alcohol, sold by thimble in markets and refreshment stands. Title at over 70°. In the bush, you can also taste the fresh palm wine before fermentation. Sweet and low in alcohol.
  • The tchapalo : fermented drink made from corn.
  • The tchoukoutou (alias Tchouk or Souloum) : millet beer. It is made in the homes of local people and is sold to the public. The occasional tchouk can be recognized on the road by a tchouk jar.
  • Among the sweets (sodas), special mention should be made of the Moka, which is similar to the café frappé, the industrial version of course.