FOOD FRIDAY: 5 – FATAYA

I am very excited about this food, and this post – today I am writing about fataya!  Fataya are little half-moons of fried dough with a variety of spiced fillings. They are a popular street food all over Senegal; women make and sell them at a small table on the side of the road.

Can I eat them all?

Until yesterday I had no idea what I would be writing about for this week’s food post, having not felt inspired as of yet.  But then I went to work and visit with my counterpart on Thursday morning and found her mother frying fataya!  It was wonderfully fortuitous timing.

K, my counterpart’s mother, is the president of a large women’s group in Tamba, is involved in many different projects, and also sells snacks at a local school.  Many women sell at schools, including my host mom and aunt.  So while I knew that she made fataya, I had just never been lucky enough to get there at the right time to see her actually making them.

So of course I hurried over to the kitchen and started asking questions and taking pictures.  It was a food nerd’s paradise!  While I was only able to see that last few steps of the process, I will try to extrapolate the first few from the information K gave me.

kitchen-fataya
The process

There are probably a hundred or so iterations of fried dough around the world.  Some sweet and dipped in sugar, some savory and spicy, and others that fall somewhere in the middle.  And although I’ve only tried a few, they have all been delicious!  You can hardly go wrong with deep-fried dough in my opinion.

In Senegal the savory option is fataya, stuffed with filLings such as onion and potato, spicy fish, or meat.  As I was searching the internet for more detailed recipes, Google autocorrected my “fataya” search to “fatayer”.  Lightbulb moment!  Fatayer are meat (or spinach or cheese) pies that are found throughout the Middle East, from Egypt to Lebanon to Jordan.   With the Arabic influence found in Senegal it makes a lot of sense that “fatayer” would lead to “fataya”.  Food and culture and connections, yay!

So let’s get cooking!  This recipe will be for the onion-potato fataya as that is what K was making yesterday.  Unfortunately my instructions in this post will be vaguer than usual since I arrived late to the party.

A cross-section of fried-oniony-potatoey deliciousness!

Dough:

  1. Mix together flour, salt, egg, oil and a little water until it forms a soft dough. Let sit while you make the filling.

Filling:

  1. Finely chop several onions and potatoes.
  2. In a mortar and pestle pound peppercorns, dried red chiles, and a boullion cube.
  3. Heat a little oil and sauté the onions and potatoes. Add the pounded spices.
  4. Add approximately 2 teaspoons each of Dijon mustard and vinegar to the cooking onions and potatoes. Add a little water if needed to thin the mixture.

Making the fataya:

  1. Take a small piece of dough, about the size of a key lime, and stretch/roll it to about the size of your palm. (K does this on a piece of latticed plastic which gives the fataya a nice pattern.  Pretty but not required.)
Filling and folding

2. Spoon a tiny amount of filling, maybe a teaspoon, into the middle of the dough.

3. Fold the top over the filling and press the edges together to seal.

raw-fataya
Ready to fry!

Frying:

  1. Heat a few inches of oil in a large pot.
And all done over a small “stove” powered by charcoal.

2. Once hot, carefully drop in several fataya. You want the dough to turn a dark golden color, not too brown.  Flip each fataya over once this color is achieved. This should take ~2 minutes per side.

Little frying fataya

3. Remove from oil and lay on paper towels or racks to drain oil.

They are (of course) best eaten when fresh, hot, and crispy, but they are still delicious hours after they are cooked.

Once they are all cooked K packs them up and heads over to the school to make the students there very happy.

A bucket full of fataya!

Happy fataya Friday everyone!

~Sophia

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