Food - Drink
What Makes Senegal's National Dish Thiéboudienne Unique?
By TALIN VARTANIAN
Seafood is very popular in Senegal, since part of the African country borders the Atlantic Ocean, and one dish in particular is so beloved that it's been named the country's national dish. It's called thiéboudienne, and contains broken rice, vegetables, fish, tomato sauce, spices, and sometimes even some fermented snails.
It is believed that thiéboudienne originates with Penda Mbaye, a cook in Guet Ndar, Saint-Louis who was known for her fish rice with tomatoes, and was even hired by a governor to cook for ceremonial events. During the 19th century, the French brought Vietnamese rice to Senegal, and Mbaye swapped in the "broken" rice for common barley.
Thiéboudienne is made by stuffing fish filets, ideally snapper or grouper, with parsley, red chile flakes, onions, garlic, scallions, salt, and pepper. Chopped onions and green bell pepper are added a Dutch oven and sautéed over medium heat, then tomato paste and fish stock is added and the mixture is brought to a boil, then the heat is lowered.
The fish filets continue to cook for about 18 minutes, veggies like eggplant, cabbage, carrots, and sweet potatoes are added, then okra, several cups of hot water, and rice. Thiéboudienne is served by scooping rice onto a plate, followed by the vegetables and fish filets, and the people of Senegal often dig into the dish using just their hands.