Senegalese Thieboudienne Rouge

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 together to create this rich and mouth-watering stew, full of rice, fish and vegetables. If you need a warming dinner tonight, then thieboudienne rouge is the answer.

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 it’s 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, plus the Wolof people’s culture from northwest Senegal and the Islamic religion have impacted the national dishes of the country.

Fish is a crucial ingredient in most Senegalese cooking due to the country’s proximity to the Atlantic ocean. A huge variety of fish is 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 labelled the national dish of Senegal and for 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) – and can be literally translated as ‘the rice of fish’. The stew apparently originated in the French colonial city of Saint-Louis in Senegal, the crossroad of different culinary cultures, and was created by the 19th century cook Penda Mbaye. She was inspired to cook tomatoes with onions, creating a delicious red sauce – hence the name ‘rouge’. Since then Thieboudienne rouge has become a beloved dish of the country and is a sacrosanct 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 as the rice, fish and vegetables simmer away together for an hour to ensure all the flavors are beautifully balanced, however, my recipe is a little easier for people wanting to try something new in the kitchen.

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 because it is stuffed with a dry 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 which 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 and to give the dish color.
  • 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 where you live. Some major 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 the perfect dish to share with family and friends this season.



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