Bissap - The Original "Red Drank" of Senegal!
In honor of American Black History month, The Pikine Grill gives homage to the “red drank!” Red drinks are highly celebrated as part of the Soul Food culture of Black Americans. Black Americans originating from the South and urban cities of the North helped to popularize commercial red drinks such as “Kool-Aid’, Hawaiian fruit punch, and red sodas that have over time become staple beverages in Black communities and served at black gatherings and family reunions. Black Americans living in the US are the descendants of enslaved people from the West African and Caribbean diaspora. Hibiscus tea is the original “red drank” of the African diaspora and is still a very popular beverage in West Africa and the Caribbean Islands. Bissap is a name for the hibiscus tea “red drank” of Senegal. From Senegal, to Mali, to the Congo, to the Ivory Coast, to Burkina Faso, and to Ghana, bissap is one of the most popular beverages of these West African countries. The main ingredient in Bissap is dried hibiscus flowers, which is also called sorrel. Hibiscus grows very well in warm climates, so naturally one can see how this beautiful exotic plant thrives so easily and is in great abundance in warm West African countries. Hibiscus also grows well in the warm and humid islands of the Caribbean, such as Jamaica. Jamaicans are known for their very own version of the hibiscus “red drank” and even ferment the tea into rich and strong wines and other fermented drink varieties. Many variations of bissap can be found all throughout West African, and bissap is in fact the national drink of Senegal. It would be difficult for anyone to visit the home of a Senegalese living in their home country or living abroad anywhere in the world and not be offered a delicious glass of ice cold bissap. In Senegalese culture, bissap is made from steeping dried hibiscus flowers in hot water, and adding a variety of dried or fresh spices, citrus fruit, and or fresh fruit to the tea mixture. The spices and fruits give Senegalese bissap its signature flavor. It is very common to find vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves, fresh mint, fresh lemon or lime juice, fresh ginger, and even fresh pineapple in Senegalese bissap. The color of Bissap can vary and really depends on the type of hibiscus flower that is used to make the tea, the amount of water used in the steeping process, and the amount of time the dried hibiscus flowers are allowed to steep in the hot water. Typically, the longer the hibiscus flowers are steeped in the hot water, the darker the bissap drink will be. Bissap can vary in color from light reddish pink to a deep dark red depending on the overall strength and integrity of the tea. Hibiscus tea is naturally sour with bitter notes and can be served both hot or cold. In the Senegalese culture, a lot of sugar, and I mean a whole lot of sugar, is added to the hibiscus tea mixture. The Senegalese bissap “red drank) is served as a very sweet and refreshingly cold drink that is usually poured over ice. On its own, hibiscus tea is known to provide many health benefits for people who drink it. Many in the health community claim that hibiscus tea is a great antioxidant that helps lower blood pressure, helps filter the liver, helps decrease anxiety, helps people lose weight, and may even help prevent some types of cancer. As the Black American culture has an increased focus on health and wellness, there has been a renaissance within the Black community in terms of diet and exercise. There has been a conscious push to eat and drink healthier foods and beverages, and in many cases bissap and other traditional indigenous teas have found a new place in the Black American community. Chef David Diop has a mission to expose Americans to the wonderful taste and health benefits of West African cuisine through the Pikine Grill Food Truck. The Pikine Grill offers a healthy alternative to traditional food truck fare, by offering international gourmet West African cuisine elevated for the American palate. The Pikine Grill is the only food truck offering a delicious and healthy version of traditional Senegalese bissap. The delicious taste of Chef David’s bissap as well as the possible health benefits of this amazing original “red drank” is all the reason to stop by the Pikine Grill during Black History month and beyond to get a cup ice cold bissap!