>> Timbuktu Islamic Center Vendors | Eat the World New York City

28 July 2017

Timbuktu Islamic Center Vendors

MALI 🇲🇱

Nine out of every ten Malians practices Islam, so naturally the ones that have made their lives in New York City have set up a cultural center and mosque for their daily prayers. On a Friday as the imam called for jumu'ah, or the weekly congregational prayer, taxis had basically double-parked the entire block with the faithful coming to pray. While non-practicing folks will not go into the mosque, there are a couple interesting vendors just outside the building offering some tastes from back home.

While most Muslims conduct their five daily prayers individually, Friday is special because everyone makes a point to join the jumu'ah. The day is also the only time you will find the vendors at the Islamic Center due to the higher volume.


I have been wanting to visit this particular vendor pictured above since it was reported in Eating in Translation. It now seems that two vendors come on Fridays, the one not pictured serving full boxed meals including fish and attiéké, cassava that is fermented and grated. She will have to wait for another day, as there was only room in the stomach for dessert on this Friday.

The vendor and I unfortunately shared no common language, but a friendly patron also buying items was happy to answer any questions and was quite friendly. She became very happy when our conversation shifted to my travels in Mali and enjoyment of thiakry during that trip.

A table full of items available each Friday.

You can find thiakry (below) throughout West Africa, a sweet dessert made from the staples of the region. A couscous made from millet creates the base, while the sweetness comes from condensed milk and sourness from fermented milk.

The whole set came to $5.50.

I had just had a nice version of thiakry from a Senegalese vendor at the Go Africa Harlem festival a couple weeks before, and was hungry for more. The version she makes here is lighter than most and almost fluffy. With a sweet tooth, it also pairs well with a bottle of homemade bissap juice, the purple liquid shown above. It is slightly spicy with hints of ginger within, and syrupy sweet just as West Africans prefer. They are brought here frozen, so the extreme cold helps to cut the sweetness.

The only thing not included as far as I could tell, were nuts and dried fruits to sprinkle on top of an order.

Also pictured above was a small package of three bread discs that are slightly sweet. I think I was told that these were best served with the other porridge available here (seen on the table photo above) which was served hot. Unfortunately I could not accommodate everything and just grabbed them to go.


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