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culinary art of Senegal

culinary art of Senegal

Ceebu Jën, a culinary art of Senegal

Inscribed in 2021 (16.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Thieboudienne is considered to be the national dish of Senegal and for a good reason, it is bursting with layers of excellent flavor. Just one of the reasons Senegalese cuisine is known around the world as delicious. By the way, you pronounce Thieboudienne like this (ceebu jen).

Origins of Thieboudienne (Thiebou dieune/Ceebu jen)

The origin of thieboudienne is quite fascinating, albeit not as straightforward as one would like it to be as most of the history surrounding this delicacy was transmitted via oral tradition. While 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 lead to the spread of Jollof across West Africa),  a popular perspective is that the adoption of thieboudienne as Senegal’s national dish was a result of a reinvention of Senegal’s colonial legacy (they were colonized by the French) and their local culture. According to Kiratiana Freelon, oral tradition credits the actual invention of thieboudienne to a woman called  Penda Mbaye from St. Louis, Senegal. A cook who lived and worked in the colonial governor’s palace, she is said to have utilized broken rice as an alternative to Barley, which was in short supply at the time. While fish is quite abundant in the Senegambia region,  broken rice wasn’t local to the Senegalese natives as it was introduced by the French colonialists in the nineteenth century as a result of importation of large quantities of poor quality rice by the French from Asia. According to this version of history, 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, this rice gained the favor of the native Senegalese due to its low cost and has evolved to become the preferred rice staple and the primary ingredient in ceebu jen/thiebou dieune, even more so than long grained rice.

In this thieboudienne recipe I used broken jasmine which is what is called for traditionally, but you could use regular jasmine rice. If you have access to an Asian market, you can find broken jasmine rice labeled as jasmine rice bits. Also feel free to use any type of fish that you can easily find. I used blue snapper fish. You may use any vegetable of your preference, I used sweet potatoes, eggplants, carrots, bell peppers and cabbage. As a final note, preparing thieboudienne is quite the labor of love, so I will save it for special occasions.

Enjoy my recipe!

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 scotch bonnet/ habanero pepper
  • 1 tsp shrimp bouillon
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2.5 lbs blue snapper fish preferably cut into fish steaks or any white fish of your choice
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