Jollof rice (Jrice) is one of West Africa’s staple dish that has no doubt caused and continues to cause controversy. Centre stage amidst this controversy are Ghanians and Nigerians. Both groups argue that they make the better version of the dish; the former argue that Jrice should be cooked with more greens, more tomatoes, with garlic and ginger as spices, while the latter simply balk at the added spices and leafy greens to what should be a simple rice dish.
What is jollof rice? In essence, it is a rich, orange-red delicacy made from rice and stew-mixings of oil, tomato, blended peppers, onions, meat or fish. Its roots have been traced back to the Senegambia region and it is the progenitor of the famous Louisianan dish, Jambalaya.
However, even with several disputes arising between West African countries on who makes the best version of Jrice, the consensus remains that two major ingredients need to be present to achieve jollof rice, and they are, rice and stew mixings made from blended tomatoes and peppers.
Basic ingredients for a jollof rice dish.
*The quantity of each item below is dependent on palate taste and serving size.
- Rice (long grain, jasmine, or your choice of rice)
- Red Bell Pepper
- Scotch bonnet pepper/Habanero pepper
- Tomato paste
- Oil (Vegetable oil works best)
- Dried Thyme
- Bay Leaves
- Maggi seasoning cube
- Beef broth (or any broth of choice)
Basic process of cooking a simple jollof rice dish.
- Blend tomatoes, onions, scotch pepper and red bell pepper. The amount of either of these ingredients depends on taste. Once blended, heat up the mixture in a saucepan to boil out excess water.
- Once the pepper mixture is being heated, wash the rice as much as possible.
- After washing the rice, set aside in a bowl.
- Then mix in some onions and oil to the pepper mixture and add in some salt and maggi seasoning for taste. Allow to cook on low-medium heat for about 5-10mins.
- Add the tomato paste and the washed rice to the cooked pepper mixture.
- Add your broth of choice at this stage enough to cook the quantity of rice you have. You can opt to use water if you don’t have any broth.
- Add some more seasoning, some more oil, bay leaves and thyme and let the jollof rice cook on medium to low heat for about 20-30 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked.
And there you have it! A basic jollof rice recipe.
Over time, people have created many variations of this jollof rice recipe. However, the only time West Africans will put aside their differences about Jrice is when it comes to the basic ingredients needed to achieve this dish. Famous chef, Jamie Oliver learned that the hard way when he posted his variation of Jollof rice in 2014 on his website and it inspired the famous #JollofGate hashtag that trended on social media. The backlash his recipe received from West-Africans eventually forced him to add a disclaimer to the recipe claiming the addition of coriander, parsley, and lemon (non traditional ingredients of jollof rice) was his twist on the famous West-African delicacy.
Nonetheless, I do not foresee the dispute between specific West African countries over who makes the best jollof rice – specifically the back and forth between Nigerians and Ghanians – ending anytime soon. But, I know for a fact that this dispute has spurred funny memes, music videos, multiple food wars and countless competitions. Below is a video by Sister Deborah titled, “Ghana Jollof”.
So to all of my West African brothers and sisters, lets all put aside our differences, if only for one day and bask in this opportunity to celebrate our cultures and most importantly our food. On this International Jollof Rice Day, let’s educate people outside of West-Africa on how to make this dish and how delicious it is…we have been given that platform, we owe ourselves that.
So, Happy International Jollof Rice Day and to end this day, Nigerian Jollof Rice is DEFINITELY better…that was a joke! Enjoy today and a funny article to entertain you today is one posted by The Guardian on past jollof rice scandals titled, “World Jollof Day: Jamie Oliver’s #ricegate and other scandals.”