Thieboudienne, Intangible Heritage of Humanity

On December 14, a new culinary dish was added to UNESCO’s list of intangible heritage: the thieboudienne, Senegal’s dish par excellence.

The Senegalese ambassador and permanent delegate to UNESCO, Souleymane Jules Diop, defended this inscription. It is a “cement of national unity, which, by its richness and simplicity, bears witness to Senegal’s culinary genius“. This inscription thus reaffirms the Senegalese identity.

It is identified by its richness and simplicity, but what is this dish about?

Thieboudienne, also known as Ceebu jen, is the national dish of Senegal. It consists of rice and fish, usually accompanied with vegetables. Thieb is rice, and dienne is fish – in the Wolof language, so we would translate it to: rice with fish. It is often served in a large bowl and eaten for lunch. Hence its fame, its rich yet simple preparation.

If we go back to the origin of the dish, it is attributed to Penda Mbaye, a 19th century cook from the city of Saint-Louis, according to UNESCO. “It symbolizes the place of women in our society, the role they have always played in it,” said Souleymane Jules Diop in his speech.

The ambassador added that “the Thieboudienne has contributed to cementing our national identity. When Senegal was a colony, the settlers imported rice to replace food crops“. “The communities were able to adapt by inventing a recipe based on rice and fish,” reports Unesco.

Thus, “by inscribing thieb, Unesco celebrates women, joy, unity, global solidarity and the culinary genius of the Senegalese people,” says Souleymane Jules Diop.


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