Thiou Djeun African Fish Ragout
The most beloved version of Thiou if you ask us. The seafood version of this rustic, hearty and slow-simmered tomato-based stew is a must try if you are a seafood lover. Fish and chunky vegetables are simmered gently in a deeply-spiced tomato sauce until the flavors soak through the flesh and gets absorbed by the vegetables to create layers of sumptuous flavors that will have you licking your fingers.
- 1 jar Mombasa Tamarind Simmer Sauce
- 4-5 lbs. whole, white, firm-fleshed fish, portioned
- 1 lb. yellow onions diced into ½ inch chunks
- 1 extra large red bell pepper, halved, each half seeded and cut into ½ inch chunks
- 1-3 whole habanero peppers, choose how spicy you would like it
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 1 cup canola oil
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 3 – 4 whole large bay leaves
- 6 large or 8 medium whole star anise
- 2 large yucca root portioned into 6-8 pieces
- 1 large eggplant cut into 4 pieces
- 2-3 carrots cut into chunks
- 6-8 whole fresh okra fingers
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 4 cups water + ¼ cup
- 1-2 tsp. ground locust bean powder (optional)
- 1 lb. raw peeled or shell-on shrimp (optional)
- ½ tsp salt (or more as needed)
Step One – Marinate the Fish
Ingredients for marinade
- 6-8 garlic cloves
- 1-2 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 2-3-inch fresh ginger
- 4-6 sprigs of parsley (stem, roots, and leaves)
- 2 Tbsp fish oil
- 2 Tbsp oil
- ½ tsp salt
- Juice of ½ of a lime or lemon
- Put all the ingredients in a food processor, except salt and process to a paste.
- Place fish pieces in a large bowl, sprinkle with the salt add then pour the marinade over it. Toss together until the marinade coats all the pieces.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Step Two – Cook the Sauce
- In the same food processor bowl, add half of the bell pepper chunks, habanero peppers and ¼ cup of the water. Process to a smooth paste. Set aside or refrigerate for much later.
- In a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil to medium high.
- Remove fish from marinade, reserving the marinade. Working in batches if necessary, add fish in a single layer and cook on all sides until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the fish to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Set aside.
- Add diced onion; cook until lightly browned, about 8 minutes, stirring up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, to prevent burning.
- Add tomato paste and continue cooking – stirring frequently – until tomato paste gets fragrant, begins to darken, and separates from the oil – about 6-8 minutes.
- Empty jar of Mombasa sauce into pan – pour 1 cup of the water into the jar and shake well (with lid tightly screwed on) to release any sauce clinging to the jar. Add to pan.
- Pour half of the remaining water into the reserved marinade bowl, swirl to loosen any bits clinging to the bowl. Add to the pan along with the red bell pepper puree. Pour the remaining water into the food processor bowl and swirl around to loosen any sauce clinging to; add to pan.
- Add fish sauce, smoked paprika, cumin and locust bean powder (is using). Drop in the bay leaves and star anise; stir. Add the yucca root so that it is the bottom layer inside the pan, then the eggplant, followed by the carrots and okra. Bring to a boil and immediately turn to a simmer. Simmered covered with the lid tightly on.
- After 15 minutes of simmering, check the carrots – if they are cooked to your desired tenderness, remove them to a large plate and cover with foil. After an additional 15 minutes, check the eggplant and okra – and if they are soft and tender on both sides, remove them to the plate of carrots. Give them more simmering time if needed.
- Check to see if the yucca root is cooked by piercing it with a fine skewer (some cook faster than others). The yucca root should be melt-in-your-mouth fork-tender when pierced with a fork. If it is done, remove to the same plate.
- Return the fish pieces along with any accumulated juices to the pan. Add the remaining cut up red bell pepper chunks; stir. Cook on a gentle simmer with lid partially covered for 40 mins – turning the fish gently pieces halfway through. Ten minutes before the cooking time is complete, add raw shrimp (if using).
- The cooking is complete when the oil separates from the sauce and floats to the top. At this point, stir in the cider vinegar and salt. Taste test and if no additional seasoning is needed, return the vegetables along with any juices accumulated back to the pan; stir gently so that the sauce coats each piece.
- Serve over cooked jasmine rice accompanied with lime wedges and our kaani hot sauce tableside.
- The whole spices called for (star anise and bay leaf) play a critical role in the outcome of this recipe. These whole spices are not interchangeable with ground spices, which are not recommended.
- We recommend firm-fleshed, meaty white fish such as amberjack, grouper, sheepshead, wild-caught tilapia, tile fish, striped bass, porgy, red snapper, etc.
- Select star anise that is whole and intact, so that you can fish them out at the end of cooking if desired.
- The vegetables selected for this recipe are very traditional, but feel free replace them with your favorites, cooking them according to your desired tenderness. Other traditional options are cabbage, brussel sprouts, and squash.
- Locust bean powder known as “Netetou” in SeneGambia and “Dawadawa or Iru” in Nigeria is made from fermented bean seeds distantly related to the legume family, and is a very common ingredient used in West African cuisine – if you instantly associated it with insects, you can now relax. Once fermented, the flavors concentrate and take on a funky, musky, pungent smell and umami like flavor profile, that become smooth and mellow after cooking. Before bouillon cubes such as maggi and jumbo (introduced to West Africa by the Nestlé Company) flooded the African culinary landscape and became ubiquitous, our ancestors relied on this native flavor enhancer derived from mother nature to season traditional dishes to imbue complexity, depth and that fifth flavor. Purchase from reputable sources online. If you do not have locust bean powder on hand, you could replace with 1-2 maggi or jumbo cubes if desired. Please note: in our recipes we only recommend the ground version – not the fresh or whole dried seeds.