Local, traditional food includes:
- a dense millet porridge with an okra sauce, a pepper sauce, a tomato sauce, or a squash sauce on top, sometimes with veggies and a couple chunks of meat
- rice with the above sauces
- mushy macaroni pasta with an oily red sauce
- rice & beans
- corn cous-cous mixed with moringa leaves, black-eyed peas, and sauce (called dumbou in Djera/Zarma, and only available in Djerma/Zarma regions)
Availability varies widely by region, but visitors may wish to try the following delicious specialities, usually available as street food:
- kilishi: beef jerkey that comes in three flavours: regular, peanut-spiced, and hot-pepper-spiced
- masa: delicious sourdough pancakes eaten with a peanut/hot pepper/ginger spice mix or a brown sauce
- fari masa: fried dough balls served with either a squash/tomato salsa or sugar
- chichena: like fari masa above, but made from bean flour instead of wheat flour
- koudagou (Djerma/Zarma): fried sweet potato chunks with sauce
Less exotic but also tasty:
- brochettes — meat kabobs made from either beef, lamb, or goat
- omelet sandwiches
- mangoes: if in season, they are bigger and juicier than any available in the western world
- yoghurt: pasteurized, sweet, and available wherever there is a fridge
- fried fish sandwiches
- ground beef sandwiches
- plates of garlicky green beans or peas (usually in bars and restaurants)
Be careful of the salads — even in the city, they’re usually not OK for western travellers.
Drink plenty of filtered or bottled water. You will get dehydrated during your trip to Niger at one point. At times it can be hard to find bottled water, but ask for “Purewater” (pronounced pure-wata) that comes in sealed plastic bags for usually CFA 25 (CFA 50 in some hard-to-reach places). You will also need to replenish your salts more frequently than you are accustomed.
Keep in mind that drinking alcohol is generally forbidden in Muslim culture, so take extra care to keep drunken, inappropriate behaviour behind closed doors and out of the public eye.
The national beer is called, appropriately, Biere Niger. The only other locally produced beer is a franchise of the French West-African Flag brewery. While taste is in the eye of the beerholder, Biere Niger is decent. Both are brewed in the same tank from the same ingredients with the slightest variation on how much reconstituted malt they put in each batch. All other beer, boxed wine, and hard liquor is imported.
In rare pockets of the capital you can find millet beer homebrew, brewed by Burkinabe immigrants. This is drunk out of calabash gourd bowls. Some compare the taste to a dry, unsweetened cider. See the Niamey section for directions.
Locally-made non-alcoholic drinks are delicious. Safety depends on the water quality: generally OK in the capital and NOT OK in rural areas. They are either sold by women out of their houses (ask around), by young girls from trays on their heads, or by young boys pushing around coolers. These drinks include:
- lemu-hari: a sweet lemony-gingery drink
- bisap: a dark red kool-aid-type drink made from hibiscus leaves
- apollo: a thick, pinkish-brownish drink made from the baobab fruit
- degue: sweet yoghurt with small millet balls (like tapioca)
To drink, you bite the corner off the bag.