Celluloid Diaries: Gambia day 5: Gambian cooking lessons

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Gambia day 5: Gambian cooking lessons

fish mongers in africa

Gambian cooking lessons with Ida Cham 

The majority of my last day in The Gambia was filled with Gambian cooking lessons. 

First, our cooking host took us back to the Tanji Fishing Market to buy all the necessary ingredients. As you may remember from my previous post, the Tanji Fishing Market is the place where you can watch the fresh catch of the day being hauled to shore and sold immediately in plastic buckets on the beach. 

Some of the things we bought were jandori fish, bissap, okra, peppercorn, onion, tomatoes, chili, garlic, lime, cassava, African eggplant, papaya, sweet potato, and rice. We would later use these to make Benachin, a rice dish typical for The Gambia and Senegal.

tanji fishing market

tanji fishing market

african fishing boats
fishing in west africa

market gambia

Back from the Tanji Fishing Market, our host Ida Cham put everyone to work, but not before making us dress up in African outfits. First we cut the vegetables. Then Ida showed us how to use each ingredient to make Benachin with traditional Gambian cooking ware. 

Benachin took several hours to make, and we killed time by playing the game Wri. At home, I would probably never have enough patience, though I have to admit that the heavenly taste is worth the effort. I particularly loved how the papaya, cassava, sweet potato, and African eggplant mingled with the rest of the dish. 

If you ever want to follow one of Ida Cham’s Gambian cooking lessons, then be sure to book in advance, because Ida’s courses are almost always complete.

gambian cooking lessons

cooking with ida cham
african vegetables

ida cham
african cooking

gambian cooking


Ngala Lodge 

After our Gambian cooking lessons with Ida Cham we visited Ngala Lodge. Owned by a Dutchman, Ngala Lodge is known as the very best place to eat in The Gambia. However, with our stomachs full of Benachin, it was impossible to put that to the test. 

Children are not allowed in this stunning resort. It's all about romance and tranquility. No wonder it has been awarded the TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Award as the fourth most romantic hotel in Africa. 

By the way, did you know Ngala Lodge has a room that’s entirely dedicated to the Rolling Stones? If you’re a fan, you know where to plan your next stay.

ngala lodge

Coconut Residence

As the plane back to Belgium was only around 9 pm, we still had a few hours left to enjoy the sun. So I took my laptop to the sun lounger near the swimming pool of our hotel Coconut Residence and worked a few hours from there. The end of a beautiful adventure.

gambia coconut resort

Disclaimer: I visited The Gambia as a guest of The Gambia Tourism Board, Coconut Residence, and SN Brussels Airlines. The opinions are my own. 


  1. Hi Vanessa .. I see it's a national dish of the Wolof peoples ... but looks as though it'd be delicious .. and what a lovely way to learn how to buy and cook - fun .. then just a final 'warm out' .. before the plane trip back ....

    Fun trip .. cheers Hilary

  2. Wow, what a great learning experience.

  3. I would've enjoyed the cooking lesson, and the food looks tasty! Yum!

  4. No kids? I'd like that lodge.
    The outdoor kitchen would be cool to use. I'm sure that's standard for them.

  5. Everything is so colorful and vibrant. The food looks delicious, my mouth is salivating!

  6. Oh, wow! I love all of the color. So beautiful!

    P.S. I wanted to reply to your comment on my post...yes, I have 5 large Christmas trees. You can see 3 of them, plus a bit of a smaller (3-foot) tree in one of my photos. A lot of work, but totally worth it! :)

  7. Once again, these Gambian posts fascinate me!! You should write memoirs someday :)

  8. Looks yummy! The food and the photos are lush! So lovely! Every frame has got the most vivid colors! Thanks for sharing =)

    Dropping by from http://pixiedusk.livejournal.com/321011.html

  9. The first thing that strikes you about Gambia is how colourful everything is. The dresses, boats, food - just beautiful.

  10. love all the photos!!! Looks amazing!!! xx

  11. Fascinating!
    Thanks for sharing at http://www.image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2014/12/summer-memories.html. I enjoyed traveling with you!


    It just so happens to be lunchtime over here, so excuse my shouting. ;)

  13. What an awesome experience! Thanks for linking up to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Party! I’ve pinned your post to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Board.

  14. Ik heb weer genoten van deze prachtige reportage met schitterende kleurrijke foto's Vanessa, mijn complimenten hoor.

  15. Oh wow! I bet those cooking lessons were interesting!! that looks like such an amazingly interesting place!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  16. What an adventure! :) Thanks for sharing your beautiful shots! :)

  17. I agree with so many of your visitors, everything is so colorful, love the ladies dresses. Thanks for sharing on Oh My Heartsie's Girls this week.
    The host, Karren

  18. I don't eat fish or meat, but the rice and vegetables look good.

  19. Your photos are fantastic - you get a real feel for the people.

  20. That food and scenery looks fantastic! I want to start a hotel which becomes the fourth most romantic in Africa! And I'll set aside one room for fans of The Jackson 5!

  21. This looks so perfect! So cool! Pinned and tweeted. Thank you for being a part of our party. I hope to see you on Monday at 7 pm. It wouldn’t be a party without you!
    Happy Sunday! Lou Lou Girls

  22. So beautiful! So colourful! So happy!!!! The food looks great!

  23. Wauw, dat ziet er fantastisch uit, prachtig om zo meegenomen te worden op je reis en te lezen tijdens deze koude dagen.

  24. Lovely pictures and the Hotel and the Pool both look so inviting and yes, I would have to check out the Rolling Stones room even if only to say I did it.

  25. Great post! Thank you for sharing valuable information. Keep up the good work.. cooking ideas are amazing..healthy recipe ideas for two

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