Move over Quinoa. Step aside Kamut. There’s a new grain in town. Fonio, a gluten-free, drought resistant ancient African grain is having its moment. And its champion is native Senegalese and now NY-based Chef Pierre Thiam, (pronounced Chee-am) who came to America from Africa to pursue studies, but like so many, was pulled into a NY Kitchen and his ultimate destiny as a Chef, Restaurateur, Caterer, Cookbook Author and now, Fonio Ambassador.
Fonio is best described as a nutty flavored Millet – a cross between Quinoa and Cous Cous – that can be used in stews, as a side, topping salads, and adding super food crunch to stir fry. It can be ground into flour for gluten free baking making it another answer to the bread-free quest; that is if you can find it. Chef Thiam is trying to make that easier. A tireless ambassador for Senegalese cooking, he recently showcased Fonio at the Museum of Food & Drink in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, offering up some of his recipes using the grain and sharing samples. Lamb Mafe and Fonio Pilaf, Fonio Mango Salad, and Peanut Vegetable Stew over Fonio are all profiled in his two cookbooks; Yolele, Recipes from the Heart of Senegal, and Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes From the Heart to the Bowl. Both books (and fair-trade Fonio) are now available on Amazon!