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World Cuisines: Thieboudienne

This week the culinary program took us to the continent of Africa. This dish originates in Senegal which is located on the coast of Western Africa. Meals in this region tend to involve lots of starchy root vegetables and grains. The tomato also finds its way into many of the meals. European explorers introduced tomatoes to the African continent during the Age of Exploration and the fruit has been a staple in African cuisine ever since. The tomato (tomato paste) has a prominent role in today’s meal: Thieboudienne.

In the Wolof language, thieboudienne translates to rice and fish. For a culinary student, thieboudienne is an excellent meal to practice with because it combines several different cooking techniques. The dish itself is a hearty, one-pot meal where the star of the show is the rich, multi-layered broth. Instead of dumping all ingredients in the pot at once, the ingredients are cooked in parts, so the broth pulls flavor from each part. The broth is started with onion, pepper, tomato paste and stock. The fish is poached and then removed, the vegetables are cooked and them removed and finally the rice is cooked. All of this happens in the same broth.

Is this recipe and method authentically Senegalese? I cannot validate the authenticity of the recipe or the cooking method being that the whole culinary program is based on the French style of cooking. The taste was nice, and I liked it. It was satisfying and the flavor was bold. The beauty of this dish is that it is customizable. You can switch up the fish, use whatever combination of vegetables you like, and dial up (or dial down) the spiciness to suit your taste.

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