Ceebu Jen (also spelled thieboudienne or tiéboudienne, among other phonetic variations) is the Wolof term for the fish and rice stew that is a daily lunchtime meal in the riverine and coastal areas of Mauritania, as well as in Senegal—basically, wherever people have access to fresh fish and vegetables. Depending on the cook’s inclination, it may be more or less spicy, or more or less tomato-based; the kinds of vegetables and fish used, too, will depend on preference, season, and market availability.
A couple of notes: Generally, it is preferable to use fish that is fairly firm and will provide good-sized chunks when combined with the veggies (versus smaller, bonier, and very flaky fish). Thiof (white grouper) is the favored fish in Mauritania for this dish.
Also, for stateside cooks: A Mauritanian friend of mine who came for a visit to the U.S. used Basmati rice when he prepared tiéboudienne here.
Other variations on its preparation appear at
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 whole eggplant
18 ounces fresh tomatoes, mashed
2 cloves garlic
20-30 ounces fish, cleaned and cut into pieces
1 Maggi cube
Salt & pepper
5 cups rice (unbroken is best)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 hot pepper, whole
Available vegetables (eggplant, carrot, squash, yam, manioc, potato, cabbage, etc.)
1. Wash all vegetables and peel or cut them as you desire. In a large cooking pot, sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add enough oil to cover the bottom to at least ½ inch depth.
2. Heat the oil and fry the fish—reserving one—turning it so that both sides brown. Set the fried fish aside.
3. Combine the tomato paste and the fresh tomatoes. Add this mixture along with the one remaining piece of fish to the onions and oil in the pot. Cook fish slightly on both sides, then fill pot ¾ full with water. Add vegetables and hot pepper; stir well.
4. Cover pot and allow vegetables to stew until soft (about 30-40 minutes). For the last five minutes put fried fish back in pot. Then remove and set aside all solids until only water remains.
5. Add rice and seasoning. You may have to add more water in order to cook the rice. There should be twice as much liquid as rice: 8-10 cups of water to five cups rice. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat and cover, cooking until all the water is absorbed (about 30-40 minutes). If there is too much water, cook the final minutes with the top off. For those of you who like that burned rice from the bottom of the pot (a delicacy to some!), less water and more oil is the key.
6. When done, put rice in large bowl and arrange the fish and vegetables in the center.
In Mauritania, everyone will sit around the bowl and take their share from the (roughly) pie-shaped part immediately front of them. Invariably, though, the host or hostess will place especially nice pieces of fish or veggies in front of the guest, for his or her special delectation …