If you need a warming dinner tonight, then thieboudienne rouge is the answer. Considered to be the national dish of Senegal, thieboudienne rouge is a fragrant and hearty dinner for us to try this season. Layers of flavor blend to create this rich and mouth-watering stew, full of rice, fish, and vegetables.
I love exploring the world, looking for interesting ingredients and fascinating flavor combinations, and I’ve ended up falling in love with tropical cuisine. One of my favorites is the cuisine from Senegal because of its incredible fusion of influences from Europe, combined with the native ingredients of the country.
This delicious fragrant mix of flaked fish with a rich tomato sauce, chewy rice, and large chunks of sweet vegetables is a stew perfect for winter. After tasting it, I knew I’d need it in my recipe file for the colder months, bringing warmth to the winter air, and so with a couple of tweaks, here is my recipe for thieboudienne rouge.
WHAT IS SENEGALESE CUISINE LIKE?
Senegalese cuisine is a fusion of different influences from countries such as France, Portugal, and North Africa. The Wolof people’s culture from northwest Senegal and the Islamic religion has impacted the country’s national dishes.
Fish is a crucial ingredient in most Senegalese cooking due to the country’s proximity to the Atlantic ocean. Many fish are used, including red carp, tuna, and monkfish, whereas meat doesn’t appear as significantly. Beef is eaten as well as goat and chicken. However, pork is not included because of the country’s large Muslim population. Crops include rice, sweet potatoes, couscous, and lentils, as well as a glut of vegetables.
Thieboudienne rouge has been labeled the national dish of Senegal, and for a good reason! It perfectly balances the ingredients and beautiful flavors of the country’s cuisine.
WHAT IS THIEBOUDIENNE ROUGE?
The name ‘thieboudienne’ comes from the Wolof language – ‘ceebu’ (rice) and ‘jën’ (fish). It can be translated as ‘the rice of fish’. The stew originated in the French colonial city of Saint-Louis in Senegal, the crossroad of different culinary cultures. It was created by the 19th-century cook Penda Mbaye. She was inspired to cook tomatoes with onions, creating a delicious red sauce, hence ‘rouge’. Since then Thieboudienne rouge has become a beloved dish of the country and is a sacred emblem of the culture and cuisine.
A dish of such high regard is not particularly quick to make as it has delicate seasoning detailed cooking instructions, and it requires patience! With this in mind, it is not a winter dinner to be rustled up on a whim. However, my recipe is easier for people who want to try something new in the kitchen. The rice, fish, and vegetables simmer away together for an hour to ensure all the flavors are beautifully balanced.
WHAT INGREDIENTS WILL I NEED FOR THIEBOUDIENNE ROUGE?
There are various elements to thieboudienne rouge, and these are some of the most essential:
- Fish – large pieces of flaky fish are cooked in the stew. The fish is incredibly flavorful thanks to the marinade made from garlic, hot peppers, and fresh coriander and parsley before cooking. Best to choose a firm white sea fish such as hake, sea bream or grouper to recreate an authentic thieboudienne.
- Dried fish – dried fish is a common ingredients in Senegalese cookery as it adds deep concentrated flavor to dishes. Some dried fish is salted and smoked, others are fermented. They can be pungent ingredients, yet ultimately they are incredibly worth adding to the recipe for the best rich flavor possible.
- Vegetables – the vegetables usually included in a thieboudienne rouge are cassava – a white root vegetable similar to a potato – cabbage and carrot for crunch and bite, eggplant, and okra. Okra is a staple ingredient in many western and central African recipes.
- Hot chilli peppers – both the fish stuffing and the stew include some hot peppers. Traditionally thieboudienne rouge is made with nokoss – a pepper paste – which is used to season various Senegalese dishes. However you can add chopped hot peppers instead. Some versions of the recipe for thieboudienne rouge do not include the peppers. So it is up to you if you would like the stew hot or mild.
- Tomatoes – the crucial base for the whole dish! Originally made with crushed cherry tomatoes, the recipe requires the tomatoes to be simmered gently for a while to create a deep rich flavor.
- Broken rice – this dish was traditionally made with broken rice as it was a cheaper ingredient. The grains resemble couscous.
WHERE CAN I BUY SOME OF THE INGREDIENTS?
There are a lot of African online supermarkets, so definitely take a look depending on where you live. Some significant supermarkets sell a vast range of international ingredients these days, and there are many local African grocery stores.
If you’re an adventurous cook like myself, then try thieboudienne rouge! This delicious stew is packed full of incredible savory flavor and is perfect for sharing with family and friends this season.
More Senegalese Dishes
SENEGALESE THIEBOUDIENNE ROUGE
FOR THE FISH STUFFING:
- ½ bunch Parsley
- ½ bunch Coriander
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 2 Shallots
- 1 Small green pepper
- 2 cubes Vegetable seasoning
- 2 African hot peppers
FOR THE THIEBOUDIENNE:
- 3 teablespoons Peanut oil
- 2 Onions
- 3 tablespoons Tomato paste
- 2 Tomatoes chopped
- 2 cups Water
- 3 fillets Sea fish
- ½ Cabbage
- 1 Eggplant
- 2 Carrots
- ½ Cassava
- ¼ cup Okra
- 2 Habanero chillies
- 1 piece Dried fish
- 1 Yellow bell pepper
- 2 cups Broken rice
- Salt and pepper to taste
FOR THE FISH STUFFING
- First, prepare the fish stuffing. Blitz the parsley, coriander, garlic cloves, shallots, hot peppers, and stock cubes in a food processor or blender and set aside.
FOR THE THIEBOUDIENNE
- Clean the fish and make 2 to 3 deep holes in each piece. Stuff each hole with the green mixture.
- Wash and peel all the vegetables. Make sure to cut them in big chunks.
- Heat the peanut oil. Add the onions and the green pepper and fry for a few minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and cook at medium heat. Next, add the crushed tomatoes and cook until they have darkened to a deep red.
- Add the water. Once the water is boiling, add the vegetables and the dried fish and let it cook for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, add the stuffed fish to the pot. Cook everything for about 30-40 minutes.
- Take the fish and the vegetables out of the pot and set them aside.
- Mix the onions, tomatoes, garlic, salt, and seasoning cube in a blender and add them to the pot.
- Steam the broken rice for 10 minutes in the microwave and then add it to the pot (make sure there is enough liquid to cover the rice). Otherwise, add some water and salt and pepper if needed.
- Cook 15 to 25 minutes. Stir occasionally while cooking.
- Before serving, add the vegetables and the fish back to the pot and cook for a few minutes.
- Prepare a nice serving plate by placing the rice, vegetables, and fish in a decorative way.