JOLLOF rice, a popular West African dish. A name derived from the Wolof people of Senegal and Gambia, referred to as theibou dienn or benachin. An empire that ruled from current Senegal between 1360 to 1549. Once powerful and affluent, but disintegrated by internal rivalry. It is no surprise that jollof rice is a popular favourite cuisine of Ghana, a close neighbour of Senegal. In fact, it springs up even further east, in countries such as Cameroon. This distance, as well as the differences in culture and climate, thus the ingredients vary wildly. The basic principle is that you cook your rice in a tomato sauce till herbs and spices become infused. It is believed jollof eventually got to Nigeria and the recipe developed as they were transferred from generation to generation which altered the dish further. Still, Nigerians claim to have the best and most original recipe and do not understand how ingredients such as carrots, bell peppers, kidney beans and spinach have made their way into other African recipes. Also, the addition of seafood to jollof rice in Liberia can be met with shock. Meanwhile, French-speaking cousins in Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal and Mali.
would see the use of okra or nuts as sacrilegious. Nigerians have taken to social media claiming to be the inventors of the delicacy forgoing the idea that during the slave times culinary knowledge was traded along with cultural practices igniting the battle on social media comically referred to as #JollofWars
So who makes the best jollof rice?
A controversial question among people of West Africa. Nigerians, Ghanaians, Senegalese and Cameroonians often claim that the best jollof rice is one of the food items best made in their country.
the topic was the subject of heated debate recently between Nigeria and Ghana when CNN correspondent Richards Quest during a visit to Nigeria professed he thought Ghanian jollof was better. And instead of Lai Mohammed to quench the debate he himself suggested that Senegalese jollof is the best.
Keri Hilson whilst en route to Nigeria’s metropolitan city, Lagos to judge a singing competition fuelled the feud about which is the better cuisine with her statement on twitter saying that she couldn’t wait to taste her favourite Nigerian jollof as soon as she was in the country.
Nigerian artiste Davido who was recently in the USA was asked to choose between Ghana and Nigerian jollof and rather bluntly defended Nigerian jollof.
Popular UK chef Jamie Oliver contributed further to the drama by making his variation of the ancient dish. Although Jamie did admit to putting his own spin on the cuisine, most people were not having any of that, claiming he didn’t pay sufficient homage to the history and culture and context.
Unlike Nigerian jollof which typically uses long-grain rice, Ghanian jollof is typically made with Thai Jasmine – savoury with a fried rather than stewed appearance and I believe that Ghanaian seasoning typically comprises of fresh ginger, onions and chillies. Many believe that these dishes are so distinct from each other in taste and texture that there is no real debate to be had. Whilst national pride is at the heart of the long-term feud, it seems we should accept that in diversity lies the beauty of the African continent. It would be nice to speak to the original inventors of this dish to know what they would make of recent adaptations.
So who makes the best jollof, well you decide.