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  • Writer's pictureAbbas

Thieboudienne - Senegal's National Dish

Last November, I spent two weeks in Senegal and I fell in love with the cuisine there. From grilled fish and oysters by the beach, to the delicious dibiterie's serving up wonderful grilled meats (and squid in one place!), the maafe (groundnut stew) and yassa (chicken or fish cooked in a caramelised onion sauce). One dish, for me, stood head and shoulders above the rest - thieboudienne, Senegal's national dish.

Thieboudienne (also written ceebu jen in Wolof, where it means fish with rice) belongs to a family of West African one-pot rice dishes. The dish is also known Benachin ('one pot' in Wolof) in some parts of Senegal and Gambia, riz au graz in Burkina Faso, while the Nigerian and Ghanian versions are known as Jollof rice.

To learn more about the dish, I took a day trip with my friend Samba to Mbour, a town on the coast, famous for its fish market. Together with another friend Mariama, we bought our ingredients and prepared a lovely huge thieboudienne with a local family, where we talked about thieboudienne in Senegalese culture, which you can see in the below video.


One word you will hear a lot in Senegal, and in particular in the video below, is Teranga. It's a Wolof word meaning something along the lines of 'generous hospitality' - though it's hard to convey through just a direct translation. I particularly like this interview with renowned Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam, where he describes Teranga as follows.

It's the way you treat the guest. It's the way you treat the other, the one who is not you. That person becomes the one to whom you have to offer teranga ... There's always room for the other around your bowl. Why? Because we believe that the other is bringing blessings ... we believe that there's always more. You will never lack by sharing.

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