Thieboudienne (Senegalese Fish and Rice)

By Francine Holmes

     Thieboudienne (Tieboudjen or Ceboo jen or Tiebou Djeun, the spelling varies across the board) translated from Wolof (language of Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania) rice and fish is the national dish of Senegal.  There are 2 variations to this dish, the red (made with palm oil and tomato sauce) or the white Thieboudienne. Personally I prefer the white.  I have to admit that this dish is somewhat of an acquired taste, the flavors and smell are quite bold.However once you get past that you will realize what an incredible dish it is.

     The authentic or traditional recipe for Thieboudienne is made with gejj, thick chunks of salty, fermented and dried white-fleshed fish, it is also called stall fish in some parts of Ghana and Adjueven in Cote d’Ivoire.  Netetou and yéet are other ingredients that along with gejj gives this dish its unmistakably pungent and musky aroma. Netetou, also known as dawadawa or sumbala, is made from African locust beans, which are pulverized, fermented, and dried to make a funky seasoning similar to the fermented black beans used in Chinese cooking.  Yéet, is made by also drying and fermenting the flesh of sea snails. All of these ingredients are available at African markets in the U.S.,however they can be substituted with Southeast Asian-style fish sauce, with similar results.

Tiebou Djenne (Senegal)
Tiebou Djenne (Senegal)

INGREDIENTS

This recipe serves 6-8

FISH AND STUFFING:
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
2 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, minced
¼ small yellow onion, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 (4–oz.) filets grouper or red snapper

FOR THE RICE & VEGGIES:
½ cup canola or palm oil
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
1 (12–oz.) can tomato paste
6 cups fish or vegetable stock
6 small carrots, halved crosswise
1 large eggplant, cut into large chunks, or 4 small Thai eggplants
1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into 12 wedges
½ cassava root, peeled and cut into 1 ½″ chunks
⅓ cup dried white hibiscus flowers (Optional)
2 tbsp. tamarind paste
2 tbsp. fish sauce
4 cups basmati rice
Lime wedges, to serve

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Make the fish and stuffing: Mix together parsley, chile flakes, garlic, scallion, onion, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Using a paring knife, cut a 2″ slit lengthwise in each fish filet; stuff filets with the herb mixture, and set aside.
2. Make the thiéboudienne: Heat oil in an 8–qt. Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and green pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft and paste is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add stock, and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add filets; cook until fish is just cooked through, about 18 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove filets and transfer to a plate, then cover to keep warm.
4. Add carrots, eggplants, turnips, and cassava, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 40 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a bowl; keep warm. Add hibiscus flowers (if using), tamarind paste, and fish sauce, and cook, stirring occasionally, until hibiscus flowers soften, about 5 minutes.
5. Add rice, and stir to combine; reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat, and fluff rice with a fork.
6. To serve, divide fish, vegetables, and rice among serving plates; serve with lime wedges (for squeezing over fish)

Sources: Saveur Magazine (April & May 2012 issue)

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