I grew up on fried chicken, perfectly steamed white rice, greens (collards, mustard, turnip and spinach), potato salad, sweet potatoes and biscuits. (That is just the short list of the delectable main course delights that graced my family dinner table on the Southside of Chicago in the 1950s.)

Imagine the comforting surprise when, in travelling throughout the world as an adult, I realized that people of African descent largely eat the same things I continue to know and love. There may be some twists and turns on the spices and cuts of meat, but we really do eat much the same — on the continent and throughout the Diaspora.

This concurrence is undoubtedly a consequence of slavery, but my personal realization of this culinary commonality came when I lived in South Africa and later in Paris… travelling to many points in between. It has since been reinforced by lifelong research into my genealogical origins and the cultural customs that attend that family history.

Along the way, one thing that long intrigued me was whether or not Francophone African cuisine was part of this Diasporan paradigm. Having concentrated my excursions on English speaking countries, I didn’t know much about the cuisine of nations colonized by the French. In 1999, on a mission to write a cookbook (which is not yet finished) I set out to find out if my theory would hold true. I went to live in Paris with a primary objective of exploring the cuisine of les peuples Africains en France et les outre mer.

After dining at numerous restaurants and cooking in the kitchens of many friends, I succeeded in proving what I thought to be true.

Here is one of the easiest and most tasty dishes I found…. Yassa au Poulet. Enjoyed in Haiti, Senegal, Paris and many points in between, it is a great example of  the universality of African cuisine extraordinaire.


Yassa au Poulet

Yassa au Poulet


1/2 cup oil (peanut)
4 pieces chicken (leg/thigh quarters)
1 large onion (sliced thin)


¼ cup lemon juice
2 tbs garlic (powder)
2 tbs salt
1 tbs pepper (cayenne)
2 tbs ginger (powder) 


MIX seasoning in a large bowl
MARINATE chicken in seasoning for a couple of hours
REMOVE chicken from marinade (SET excess marinade aside)
FRY chicken in oil until crisp & well browned on both sides
REMOVE chicken from skillet
ADD reserved marinade & onions to skillet
SAUTE onions until tender but not soft
POUR onion mixture over chicken
SERVE hot with rice and plantain



  1. Riley said,

    9 May 2013 at 5:00 pm

    How do you spell the Fall cider like beverage, yassal (sp)?
    Its noon 5/9 here in Chicago and now you’ve made me hungry…

    • Sharon Leslie Morgan said,

      9 May 2013 at 5:13 pm

      I think you are thinking about sorrel = hisbiscus leaves.

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