Food in Mali
Rice with sauce (typically peanut “tiga diga na,” tomato/onion/oil, or leaf/okra based – generally with some fish or meat if bought or made for visitors) is the most ubiquitous Malian meal. Another Malian staple is “to,” a gelatinous maize or millet meal eaten with sauce, but it’s more of a rural cuisine than anything most visitors would experience. Couscous is very popular in the north.
In the larger cities, excellent “western” restaurants may be found at costs that are comparable to those in the United States. Bamako also offers excellent Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Lebanese, and other cuisines. The typical Malian restaurant offers chicken or beef with fries and/or salad at smaller establishments; it’s generally tasty and inexpensive, but it’s not especially Malian. Some local specialties may be available in the nicer establishments in more touristic regions. Breakfast would typically consist of omelet sandwiches, lunch will consist of rice with a few of sauces to pick from, and dinner will consist of beans, spaghetti cooked in oil with a little tomato, potatoes, fried rice, chicken, meatballs, beef kebabs, fish, and salad. Little tables may be found along the highway and at transportation hubs.
Little cakes (particularly at bus stops), different fried doughs (sweet or with spicy sauce), peanuts, roasted corn (if in season), sesame sticks, and frozen liquids in little plastic bags are among the snacks available. Fresh fruit is always tasty and readily accessible. Mangoes, papaya, watermelon, guavas, bananas, and oranges are among the finest; the specific selection depends on the season.
Of course, food borne illness is a significant worry for visitors in any tropical, impoverished nation. Untreated water (particularly in rural areas) and fruits and vegetables that have not been peeled or soaked in bleach water are the primary causes of diarrhea – salads (even in fine restaurants!) are likely to create issues. Make sure any meal (particularly meat) is properly cooked – this is more of an issue with Western restaurant food than with Malian cuisine (which are usually cooked for hours). Drink bottled water and consult your doctor about carrying an antibiotic like cipro to treat severe diarrhea that does not improve in a few days.
Drinks in Mali
Water from the tap should be regarded with caution. It is often chlorinated to such an extent that few bugs could possible live in it. Short-term tourists, on the other hand, will be safer with bottled water. There are many inexpensive local brands, but be aware that they are primarily consumed by foreigners and affluent Malians: bottled water is not available at stores frequented by “regular” Malians. Coca-Cola and Fanta are more commonly accessible and safe soft beverages. But keep in mind that Coke will make you want to go to the bathroom, leaving you dehydrated much more than before you drank it – a major issue in this scorching nation. In little plastic bags, street sellers offer water and home-made ginger and berry beverages. They’re often iced, which keeps them cool in the summer. In general, you should not consume them without first treating them.
However, one known in French as “bissap” and in Bambara as “dabileni” (“red hybiscus”) is prepared from hibiscus blossoms that have been cooked and is usually safe to consume. It’s a very tasty non-alcoholic beverage that you shouldn’t pass up. In Bamako, purified water in tiny plastic bags for XOF50 can be purchased at most corner shops; they are considerably cheaper and, of course, more ecologically friendly than bottles. The bags are labeled with a brand name, so don’t confuse them with the tap water sold by street sellers in unlabeled plastic bags. Sweet milk and yoghurt are also frequently marketed in this manner, and the bags are usually clean since they are industrially packed. In certain areas, fresh milk may be purchased from buckets by the roadside, but it should always be properly cooked before consuming since it might contain TB germs (often Malians do this before selling, but it is safer to do it yourself or at least ask).