02 May 2017

everything about nigeria jollof rice and ghana jollof rice

The fight for Jollof rice rights will never end between Nigeria and Ghana. The truth is none of the two countries can claim ownership to the invention of the dish. Whereas there is ultimate proof that neither Ghanaians nor Nigerians did invent the Jollof rice,this doesn’t mean that the actual originators are the best at cooking it.

Jollof rice is a dish made with rice, tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, salt, spices and vegetable oil. Whatever variations are available, these ingredients are a must in the dish. The long grain rice we use to cook this dish is not even indigenous to us. It is imported into our shores from Asia. This already tells you this dish came from somewhere else.

The truth is none of the two countries can claim ownership to the invention of the dish. Yes, mastery has been achieved because of years cooking this dish, but it doesn’t mean we own it. For example the “beignet”(a fried donut) is originally a French recipe; but for some reason, New Orleans in America is considered the “beignet” capital. So I understand how dishes can be passed around and then become the pride of a place.

The dish was invented by the “Wolof” people – an ancient tribe that was spread across Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. It is called “Thieboudienne” in Senegal and “Benachim (One pot)” in Gambia but the “Wolof” tribe reside in Senegal today so Senegal is the Jollof rice Inventor. However, it was passed around along the West African coast and became so popular. Interestingly, a lot of people don’t know it originated from Senegal. I saw on online poll with Forty percent of the respondents saying Jollof rice is from Ghana, Thirty three percent Nigeria, Seventeen percent Senegal and Ten percent Gambia.


There are multiple regions in Africa who debate over the geographical origins of Jollof rice however, one of the most longstanding and popular debates between two regions, has typically been between Nigerians and Ghanaians. The main argument over this debate is surrounded on which country invented Jollof rice, and whose tastes better. The reason for the debate is due to the huge popularity of Jollof rice, in regards to West African cuisine. Both Nigeria and Ghana have shown consistent competitiveness over the debate as to who can serve the dish the best. The debate has gone so far as to even having organized contest shows, in order for famous critics from all over the world to taste, examine the differences, and give their overall judgments on either forms of the dish. Recently, social media has also become a popular tool for people to share pictures, and opinions over who serves the dish the best.

Nigerian Jollof
Although considerable variation exists, the key ingredients for classic Nigerian Jollof Rice include parboiled rice (often long-grain), tomatoes and/or tomato paste, pepper, vegetable oil (such as sunflower or groundnut) and onions. Common additional accessories and seasonings include meat stock, stock cubes, curry powder, dried thyme, garlic and/or ginger, white pepper and bay leaves. 
Most of the ingredients are fried in one pot, of which a spicy tomato and pepper puree forms the base. Rice, partially precooked or not, is then added and allowed to cook in water and/or stock. This dish is typically served with meat and such side dishes as moi moi, fried plantain (“dodo”), Nigerian salad and coleslaw. The type of jollof rice served at Nigerian parties often has a smoky taste and aroma as it tends to be cooked in a cast iron pot or with firewood.

Local versions of jollof rice are often cooked with palm oil, smoked fish and local spices and there are variations of classic jollof rice, including mixed vegetables jollof rice, coconut jollof rice and rice and beans. Riverine Nigerians often add seafood, such as shrimp. More economically versions of jollof rice are informally known as “concoction rice,” the preparation of which can involve as little as rice and tomatoes.
Ghanaian Jollof
Ghanaian Jollof rice is made up of vegetable oil, onion, bell pepper, cloves of pressed garlic, chillies, tomato paste, beef or chicken (some times alternated with mixed vegetables), jasmine or basmati rice and black pepper. 

The method of cooking Jollof rice begins with first preparing the beef or chicken by seasoning and frying it until it is well cooked.[11] The rest of the ingredients are then fried altogether, starting from onions, tomatoes and spices in that order. After all the ingredients have been fried, rice is then added and cooked until the meal is prepared. Ghanaian Jollof is typically served with side dishes of beef/chicken/well seasoned and fried fish and/or mixed vegetables.

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Let me wax philosophical and say that what we see at play here is deeper than a fantastic dish. It could be the ever irrepressible Nigerian superiority complex and the typical African/Ghanaian view that Nigerians are aggressive and think they know all. We all have our prejudices and I am not about to go into all that; but the truth is the take of both countries on jollof rice are great, and every one should be proud of their take on the dish and not start an insultfest.

Can we stop being so critical?
In my humble opinion, there are no winners. They are both amazing, really. And I daresay that most of these troublemakers have not sampled both jollof rices to make an informed assessment.
Food and subsequently taste is subjective, our tastes can’t always correlate, that would be weird. Let there be peace, please.

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