Thieboudienne: Senegalese Jollof Rice And Fish
Thieboudienne is a mouth-watering and irresistible rice and fish dish in Senegal.
Thieboudienne (the Senegalese Jollof rice dish) is also known as Ceebu Jen in Wolof language, riz au poisson or thiebou dieune in French, all of which literally mean rice and fish.
Thieboudienne (pronounced ‘ceebu jen’ or chee-boo-Jen) is the National dish of Senegal, which comprises of stewed broken jasmine rice and vegetables and served with marinated fish.
Thieboudienne has a different taste that Nigerian jollof rice doesn’t exactly have.
Origins of Thieboudienne (Thiebou dieune/Ceebu jen)
The origin of thieboudienne is fascinating, although it is not straightforward since most of the history surrounding this delicacy was transmitted via oral tradition.
Jollof rice is traditionally attributed to the Senegalese Wolof Empire (which in the 14th to 16th century was a West African ruling state whose migration patterns led to the spread of jollof across West Africa). It is believed that thieboudienne becoming Senegal’s national dish was a result of a reinvention of Senegal’s colonial legacy and culture.
According to Kiratiana Freelon, oral tradition credits the actual invention of thieboudienne to a woman called Penda Mbaye from St. Louis, Senegal. She was a cook who lived and worked in the colonial governor’s palace. She used broken rice as an alternative to barley, which was short in supply at the time.
Although fish was surplus in the Senegambian region, the Senegalese natives were not familiar with broken rice since it was introduced by the French colonialists in the 19th century due to the French people’s importation of large quantities of low quality rice from Asia.
It was recorded that French merchants would dump large quantities of Vietnamese rice, whose grains were broken during the milling process in Senegal and regarded as low quality. With time, the Senegalese started using this rice due to its low cost.
Since then, broken rice has become the preferred rice staple and the primary ingredient in ceebu jen/thiebou dieune, even more so than long grained rice.
Having established the origin of this delicious food, let’s dive into how it is prepared.
How to Make Senegalese Jollof Rice and Fish
This thieboudienne recipe begins with soaking 2 cups of the rice while preparing the other ingredients.
Ingredients for the Fish and Stuffing
A handful of parsley about a heaping cup
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp shrimp bouillon
1 scotch bonnet/ habanero pepper
1 tsp salt
2.5 lbs blue snapper fish preferably cut into fish steaks or any white fish of your choice
Marinade the Fish
Grind the parsley, garlic, scotch bonnet, bullion black pepper and salt into a rough paste with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor.
Poke two holes into the flesh of the fish and stuff them with the paste. Broil or fry the fish until it is golden brown on each side, and set aside.
Ingredients For The Jollof Rice
2 cups of broken jasmine rice or regular jasmine rice (should be soaked in water)
1 sweet potato
1 purple eggplant
4 carrots I used orange purple and yellow carrots
1/2 a head of cabbage
2 bell peppers
3 scotch bonnet/ habanero peppers
3 cloves of garlic
For the sauce
1 cup tomato paste
1 cup vegetable oil
1 large onions sliced
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 scotch bonnet/ habanero peppers
3 tablespoon of shrimp bouillon
Salt to taste
Grind Spices into Paste
Grind the scotch bonnet peppers and garlic into a rough paste using a mortar and a pestle or a food processor.
Stew the Vegetables
Saute the sliced onions in the oil over medium heat until translucent. Add in the tomato paste, and stir fry for 5 minutes and allow the tomato paste to brown a little.
Add in the ground garlic and scotch bonnet peppers and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Add in the bullion, black pepper, and 8 cups of water. At this point you can taste the sauce for its salt content and adjust it to your taste.
Add in the vegetables in to the sauce, starting with the toughest vegetable and cook until tender. Then add in the sweet potatoes, cook until tender and remove. Repeat the same process for the carrots and all the vegetables until they are all cooked.
Set the cooked vegetables aside and add the fish into the sauce and cook for 2-5 minutes. Once the fish is cooked, gently remove it from the sauce.
Completing the Thieboudienne
At this point, drain the rice that has been cooking and pour into the sauce. Allow the sauce to cover the rice. Adjust the quantity of water at this stage if necessary to ensure that the rice is nicely covered.
Cover the food and cook on low-medium heat for 15-20 minutes. You may seal the cover of the pot with foil to prevent steam from escaping.
At the 15 minute mark, check to know if the rice has absorbed the moisture and softened. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes if it needs more time. If the water has dried up and the rice is still not soft, add in four tablespoons of water and cover to cook. Serve the thieboudienne hot with the vegetables and fish, and lime wedges.