I recently received an email from a soon-to-be-Dakaroise asking some of the questions we all have when moving here. My answers are below, but feel free to add your comments and additions below!
Q: Can you find good baking soda and baking powder in Dakar?
Yes – both are available here. Baking soda (bicarbonate de soude or bicarbonate alimentaire) is sold in a blue and white box at Casino stores.
Baking powder (levure chimique) is available in small packets (about 2 tsp) at any grocery store or buutik. They are often in pink or yellow packets. Look for them near the vanilla-flavored sugar and instant yeast. It would be cheaper, however, to bring a cannister of baking powder from the US. But yes, you can get it here easily.
Q: Also, can you find yeast?
Instant yeast (levure boulangère) is also easy to find. It’s available in individual packets or in bulk (500g) from most French grocery stores.
You may also be able to buy fresh cake yeast from your local boulangerie, once you make friends with the bakers!
Q: Is there brown sugar or other substitutes?
Light brown sugar (cassonade) is available at some French grocery stores. Sometimes you can find the softer sucre viergoise blond (light) or brun (dark).
Brown sugar is available in Burkina Faso, so if you’ve got friends there or a trip planned… Or you can ‘cheat’ and bring maple flavoring from the US and add a drop or two per cup of sugar called for in a recipe.
Q: Is the white sugar fine and processed or a more coarse grain?
Hmm… Let’s start with a more basic question: Is it white? The answer is that it’s white-ish 🙂 We buy sugar from the local buutik and are happy with it… whatever shade of white-ish it may be that day. But you can buy imported sugar from the EU at the grocery stores. I would say it’s as processed/fine as in the US.
Q: What is available in the way of sugars?
Powdered sugar (sucre glace à saupoudrer) as well as sugar cubes (sucre en morceaux) for coffee and tea are available from most French grocery stores.
Honey and molasses are also available (both imported from the EU and more local varieties).
Artificial sweetener powders (édulcorant) are also available.