World Food Challenge

Day 154: Senegal and bluefish with thiebou jen

Good evening, Raffies!

For our last dinner in sunny Italy we are going to Senegal and enjoying a great national dish: bluefish with Thiebou jen.
Traditional Senegalese cuisine involves many hands working together to prepare a dish and chanting and singing during the process. This starts by pounding the Fonio, a grain similar to millet. In the process you pound the grains in a pot with a long stick. It is a tedious job and several hands are involved in it.
Thiebou is Senegal’s national dish. You can find it as Thiebou yapp, rice with lamb, Thiebou guinaar, rice with chicken, or with fish. In the past, people used broken rice, which is what is left of the rice at the bottom of the sacks of rice. This practice goes all the way back to the times when people did not have much to eat.

A good Thieb will form a crust of rice at the bottom of the pot, called khogn, that is considered to be the best part of the dish. This delicious treat is usually reserved for the cook, as a prize for the hard labour.

Thieb is a melting pot of different cuisines that influenced the Senegalese cuisine: the tomatoes from America, the carrots and cabbage from the French colonists.

Thiebou jen is no different. And we also worked together to prepare this dish. Both my mom and my husband helped in preparing today’s dinner.

The recipe takes quite some time, but the result is delicious:

2 c basmati rice
1/2 c peanut oil
2 large onions, diced
1 tomato, chopped
1 c tomato paste
6 c water
1 pinch sugar
4 blue fish
salt
pepper
1 bay leaf
7 tbsp rof *
1/2 cabbage, cut into wedges
2 carrots, cut into 3 cm long pieces
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
250 g yuca, peeled and cut into chunks
12 okra pods
1 habanero
1 tbsp tamarind paste
4-5 tbsp fish sauce
2 limes for garnish

Start by washing the rice, in order to get it less sticky and more grainy. Heat the oil in a large pot and sauté the onions until soft. Add the tomato and the tomato paste with a little water to dilute the paste. Drizzle in the sugar and add the salt. Cover the pot and reduce the heat. Let it simmer until the oil rises above the tomato. Add some water if the tomato seems to stick to the bottom of the pan.
In the meantime, season the fish with salt and pepper and cut 2 cm long slits at a 1 cm distance on each side. Stuff the cuts with rof (the recipe will follow at the bottom).
Now uncover the tomato sauce and add the 5 cups of water and the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Now carefully place the fish into the sauce. Add the cabbage, yuca, butternut squash, okra and habanero. Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Now let it simmer uncovered for approximately one hour, until the vegetables are tender. Remove the fish after approximately 30 minutes.
Now add the tamarind paste and adjust with salt and pepper if needed. Let it simmer until oil rises to the surface. Now add the fish sauce and stir well. You can now remove the habanero, unless you like it hot.
Add the rice to the pot and let it cook until the rice is done. You can add some water if needed and remember to cover the pot, in order to get your crispy bottom.
Arrange the rice on a large serving plate and place the fish on top. Garnish with limes and serve.

* For the rof:

6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
5 scallions
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp black pepper
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Mix the ingredients to a paste in a mortar or, alternatively, blend it in a blender.

This dish was great! It was really worth waiting for.

Love,

Raffi

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