Getting to know Africa includes experiencing the vastly different – and yummy – expressions of each culture through food.
Often considered to be the national dish of Senegal – Thieboudienne – basically means fish and rice. Some other African countries refer to this dish as “riz au gras” or “Jollof Rice”.
You will see a wide variety of spellings of the name. Cee bu jen, theibou dienn, tie biou dian, etc.
Classic recipes for Thieboudienne contain netetou (also sometimes called soumbala or sumbala). Many cooks substitute the more readily available South Asian Fish Sauce. How much to substitute is really a matter of taste. We use about a tablespoon but you may want to experiment to suit your own taste.
Authentic recipes for Thieboudienne also use whole fish. At home, we make it with fish fillets. It’s just easier! Not quite as authentic but, hey, it tastes just as good.
We love sharing our family recipes with you but please remember you can search online and find lots of variations on this dish and other terrific African recipes. An online recipe site we use over and over again is The Congo Cookbook. My East Africa Journal is also a great source for recipes.
We just came across a terrific culinary resource – afrolems.com – A food blog for Nigerian, African and International recipes. Visit them – they have a really nice selection of recipes and the instructions are laid out in a really easy to understand manner.
AllRecipes and Food.com are also good resources. Just a simple web search will turn up a wide variety of recipes for you to try.
- 6 to 8 fish fillets. You can use a wide variety of fish. Basically any firm fleshed fish. We mostly use tilapia but sometimes we’ve used bass or grouper.
- 1 bunch of broad leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 medium sweet onion(we like it chopped rough)
- 4 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 2 shallots, minced quite fine
- 1 cup of vegetable oil (we use a canola/olive oil blend)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced fine
- 1 tablespoon South Asian Fish Sauce
- 2 small dried fish (if you can’t find salty dried fish, just substitute another tablespoon of South Asian Fish sauce). Classic chefs would shudder but we’ve also used anchovy paste! You’re just trying to get that savoury”umami” flavour.
- 2 cups of broth (we like to use vegetable broth)
- 4 hot peppers, small dice (any hot pepper will do depending on your love of “heat”)
- 1 can of plum tomatoes (we use diced plum tomatoes)
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 lime or lemon (sliced up)
- 2 carrots, cut into chunks
- 6 pieces of okra
- 2 potatoes (you can use any potato but we particularly like sweet potato or a combination)
- 1 eggplant, cut into thick slices
- 1 small cabbage, cut into wedges
- 4 cups of jasmine rice
- 1 piece of cassava root, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
- salt and pepper to taste
- Mix the parsley, half of the minced garlic cloves, half of the diced hot peppers, half the broth and some salt.
- If you are using whole fish, you will need to clean the fish, rinse it and pat it dry.
- If using whole fish, make a couple of diagonal cuts in the fish and press the stuffing (the mixture you made in Step 1) into the slashes. We just spread the mixture on our fillets and roll them up loosely and fasten with a couple of toothpicks.
- Heat up your vegetable oil in a frying pan (a fairly deep one). Fry your fish (or fish rolls) for about 6 to 8 minutes, flipping them halfway through so both sides (or outside) are seared.
- Turn the heat down to just simmer and add the other half of the garlic and the onion and the remainder of the peppers. Mix well and saute for about 5 minutes.
- Mix up the remaining vegetable broth, fish sauce (and dried fish, if using).
- Put the mixture (Step 6) into your pan and mix it in well.
- Now add the tomato paste and the plum tomatoes (we use diced tomatoes) along with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about another 5 minutes and then add the bay leaves and a cup of water.
- Simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Now add all the remaining vegetables and simmer for about a half an hour. You want the vegetables to be cooked but still firm.
- When the vegetables are cooked, remove them from the pan to a bowl and set aside.
- Add the jasmine rice (you should rinse it first). Now add enough water to cover the rice. We think we add somewhere between 4 and 5 cups of water.
- Cook uncovered for about 30 – 40 minutes. Make sure to stir so that rice doesn’t stick to bottom of pan.
- When the rice is cooked, put your vegetables back in the pan along with the fish and cook for about 5 minutes. Just until vegetables and fish are hot again.
Serve this with lemon or lime slices to squeeze over the top.
As netetou and fish sauce are quite strong flavours, please experiment to satisfy your own taste.
This is a delicious recipe and reheats well (if you have any leftovers!). Our recipe isn’t totally authentic (we’ve sort of adapted it over the years). You can get a wide variety of recipes for Theboudienne online if you want to pursue a more traditional recipe.
Enjoy! And please let us know how you enjoy this recipe and any creative culinary modifications you make.