• Thieboudienne (Sharyn Cairns)Source: Sharyn Cairns

Meaning “rice and fish”, this one-pot Senegalese wonder is eaten at least once a week and is a must at every celebration. Food Safari Water






Skill level

Average: 4 (28 votes)


  • 3-4 lean whole fish with firm flesh (barramundi, grouper, sea bream, bass, pike, hake, tilapia or snapper), about 1.5-2 kg, scaled and gutted
  • 750 ml (3 cups) vegetable oil
  • 2 small pieces sea snail, optional (only available in Senegal)
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste 
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cassava root, peeled and cut into chunks 
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 3 wedges
  • 1 cabbage, cut into wedges
  • 3 bay leaves 
  • 4 okra
  • 2 habanero chillies
  • 1 kg broken rice or jasmine rice 
  • 1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • To serve, sliced tomato, red and green capsicum


  • ½ bunch curly parsley, chopped 
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ habanero chilli
  • ½ red capsicum
  • ½ green capsicum
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • 3 onions, roughly chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 red capsicum, roughly chopped
  • 2 green capsicum, roughly chopped
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 1 tsp netetou (see Note)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


For the stuffing, process all the ingredients in a food processor until a smooth paste forms. This can also be done in a mortar and pestle.

Cut the fish into thick cutlets, reserving the head. Using a small sharp knife, make a few deep in each piece of fish and push the stuffing into each slit.

For the nokkos, process all the ingredients in a food processor until a smooth paste forms.

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep frying pan over high heat. Fry the fish, in batches for 6-7 minutes on each side and set aside.

Add three-quarters of the nokkos to the same oil and fry for 5 minutes. Add the sea snail, then the tomato paste and 250 ml (1 cup) water. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add 1½ - 2 litres water. Add the carrot, sweet potato, cassava, eggplant, cabbage and bay leaves and simmer for 20 minutes or until just tender.

Meanwhile, wash and rinse the rice 3 times. Drain well and steam for 10- 15 minutes or until half cooked.

Add the fried fish and reserved heads to the vegetables along with the okra and fresh chillies. Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove the fish and vegetables from the pan with a slotted spoon.

Place the tamarind in a small bowl and stir in 1 cup of the sauce. Pour another cup of sauce over the fish.

Add the remaining nokkos to the remaining sauce in the pan and mix together. Season generously with salt, then add the fish sauce. Check for seasoning - it should be a little saltier than you think. Gently stir in the steamed rice and cook for another 10-15 minutes over low heat until the rice is just cooked.

Tip the rice onto a serving platter and place the vegetables and fish on top.  Drizzle with the tamarind sauce and garnish with tomato and capsicum slices.

• Very popular in Senegalese cooking, netetou (also known as dawadawa and sumbala) is made from African locust beans, which are ground, fermented and dried to make a pungent seasoning for sauces.


Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Rachel Lane. Creative concept by Belinda So.

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