Contrary to popular belief, Ghana and Nigeria are not the only African countries with jollof rice; however, they have been the countries with the most battles over the best jollof rice.
Jollof rice is the GOAT meal of all rice dishes. Nothing beats the good old, delicious, smoky jollof rice that readily sets you in the party mood. You just can’t resist a good plate of jollof.
As a kid, I used to look forward to Easter, Christmas, New Year and other family celebrations because of the jollof rice I would be eating on that day. I believed (I kind of still believe it though) that the jollof rice prepared on those days tasted differently. Maybe it is the love of having to share it with people, maybe it is the richness of the ingredients that the smoky taste that the firewood adds to the rice or the kokorin (local large pot). I do not know for sure. All I know is that party rice tastes differently.
The Jollof rice is so good that DJ Cuppy decided to make a song (Jollof on the Jet) about it and did a completely unpaid promotion for it as she shared pictures and videos of herself eating this meal almost everywhere. Even Cardi B is not left out. Our Nigerian Jollof is so good, it made her adopt a Nigerian name just to be a part of us. The things that good food can make us do.
I’m not sure when or how this battle for the best jollof bean began, but a little birdie told me that two men named Kofi and Kunle, Ghanaian and Nigerian, respectively, once had a heated argument over who had the best jollof. Now that I think about it, it sounds more like a joke.
It’s amusing how the competition for the best jollof is centered solely on Nigeria and Ghana, despite the fact that neither of these countries is the originator of this dish. Shocking right? Well, let’s have a quick look at the origin of our iconic jollof rice.
origin of jollof rice
Jollof rice is a West African rice dish that originated in Senegal, a Senegambian territory governed by the Wolof or Jolof Empire in the fourteenth century and encompassing regions of today’s Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania, in which rice was cultivated. The cuisine is regarded as a traditional Thieboudienne dish, which includes fish, rice, seafood, and vegetables.
Jollof rice has been one of West Africa’s most popular foods. The name and ingredients of this dish vary depending on where you live. In Mali, for instance, it is known as zaamè in Bamanankan. The food’s most common name, Jollof, originated from the Wolof people’s name, while it is known in Wolof as ceebu jn or benachin in Gambia and Senegal. It’s known as “riz au gras” in French-speaking countries. Regardless of the differences, the dish is “mutually understandable” across areas and has been the most well-known African food outside of Africa.
Now that we know the origin of this rice dish, let’s proceed to learning how to make the perfect jollof rice the Nigerian way.
how to prepare jollof rice – nigerian recipe
Serving: 6 people
- Pepper (10 – as many as you like pieces of habenero/ scotch bonnet, 1-2 medium sized red bell pepper)
- 5 – as many as you want large tomato fruits
- 1 large sized onion
- 1 satchet of tomato paste
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- Ginger and garlic paste
- Curry and thyme
- 4 cups of rice
- Seasoning cubes
- Chicken/ turkey stock
- Salt to taste
- 2-3 Bay leaves
- Blend together onions, pepper and and tomatoes till smooth fine paste.
- In a large or medium sized pot, heat your vegetable oil and stir-fry chopped or sliced onions for a minute. Add in tomato paste and stir-fry for a minute or two. Pour in blended pepper, stir and cover.
- After 10 minutes, stir stew, add in the stock, seasoning, stir again to mix and cover to cook. You’ll know your stew is well cooked when the oil starts to flow on top of the stew.
- When stew is well cooked, add in about 3-4 cups of water, bring to boil and pour in your washed rice, then your bay leaves. Seal pot with an aluminium foil before covering with the pot’s lid.
- When the rice is tender enough to your preference and the water in the food has dried up, stir the rice thoroughly till it is ready to be served. It is that easy!
- I’ll let you in on a little secret: your rice will burn unless you are cooking in a non-stick pot, but don’t fret. The burning adds flavour to the rice on its own.
Now that you have learned or improved your jollof rice cooking skills, let’s discuss about the country that produces the best jollof rice.
Which Country has the finest Jollof Rice?
Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cameroon are the key players in a competition about who manufactures the best Jollof rice. Senegal and Gambia seem indifferent about the Jollof issue; they originated it, after all. What else could be anticipated with oral traditions of passing down recipes and a plethora of variations fueling the ongoing competition with as many similarities as there are differences?
There have been Jollof cuisine festivals in Washington DC, and Toronto, as well as Jollof competitions in Nigeria. Since 2015, each year on the August 22, World Jollof Day has been commemorated with images and films shared online.
We ask “what country has the best jollof” when, in reality, we mean who has the best jollof between Ghana and Nigeria.
Personally, I support Nigerian jollof, and you may think this is because I’m Nigerian. Of course, it is, but I can tell you that I have somewhat tasted the Ghanaian jollof because I learnt that their jollof is made with basmati rice, and I’m not a fan of that rice. Although it looks really good on a plate, the taste, however, isn’t something my taste buds love so much.
On October 16, 2021, the US embassy, in a tweet to celebrate World Food Day, declared the Ghanaian jollof as the best jollof. This, however, does not end the competition, and I think it’s an argument that would go on forever.
You could say this argument is one of the binders we have in West African countries as it is prone to being a great conversation starter.
While I am waiting to eat jollof from seven different West African countries, I will be sharing with you the different jollof rice that we have and tagging you in one of the best YouTube videos on how to cook them if you feel you want to bring these countries to you.
Jollof rice recipes from seven West African countries
Back to the question of “which country has the best jollof rice?” I would be fair in my judgement. I haven’t tasted the other kinds of jollof from other countries, and even if I did, I might not be able to choose just one winner, but I’ll let you live with that curiosity till you try out the different jollof recipes there are.
Let me leave you with a question that you can answer in the comment section below. What do you think makes party rice taste differently from the one cooked in the house on a regular day?