Cuisine in Mali is as diverse as its inhabitants; cuisine varies regionally. Rice and millet are the staples of Malian cuisine, which is heavily based on cereal grains. Grains are generally prepared with sauces made from a variety of edible leaves such as spinach or baobab with tomato or peanut sauces accompanied by pieces of grilled meat (typically chicken, mutton, beef or goat).
The most universal Malian dish is rice with sauce (often peanut tiga diga na, tomato/onion/oil, or leaf/okra based – usually with some fish or meat if purchased or prepared for guests). To, a gelatinous corn or millet food served with sauce, is another Malian classic, though more a village food than something most tourists would encounter. In the north, couscous is also quite common.
Some of the popular Malian dishes are:
poulet yassa – a chicken dish, prepared with sliced onions, minced chilli pepper, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, cooking oil, and salt and pepper;
mafe – a beef dish prepared with peeled-diced-seeded tomatoes, minced onion, minced garlic, natural unsalted peanut butter, oil, stock and salt and pepper;
la capitaine sangha – a kind of Nile perch served with hot chilli sauce, whole fried bananas and rice;
foutou or fufu – a mashed vegetable preparation (can be made from mashed yams, yucca, or potatoes); usually served as an accompaniment for meat items;
couscous – a kind of semolima pasta having the appearance of a small grain;
meni-meniyong – a Malinese dessert which comprised of sesame seeds, honey, and unsalted butter.
Other popular dishes include poulet kedjennou, fakoye, saga-saga, tcheke, goya, larho, riz and seri.
Snacks one may find in Mali include little cakes (especially in bus stations), various fried doughs (either sweet or with hot sauce), peanuts, roasted corn if in season, sesame sticks, and frozen juices in little plastic sacks.
Fresh fruit is widely available and always delicious. Some of the best are mangoes, papaya, watermelon, guavas, bananas and oranges; the particular selection depends on the season.
Tea drinking is quite a ritual in Mali. Tea normally is drunk in three rounds: the first for life which is slightly sweet, the second for love which is very sweet, and the third for death which is bitter.