Divine aroma, rich spicy flavor, irresistible taste. Yup, Jollof rice, the subject of lengthy reverberating discourses and unending brutal twitter wars across countries. The dish? Simply a must-have on every occasion.
Enjoyed across West and Central Africa, most notably, Senegal, The Gambia, Nigeria, and Ghana, this classic, pocket-friendly, easy peasy delicacy, a culinary pride of West Africa, joyfully bless homes and, parties, topping even the grandest of menus during special occasions, effortlessly uniting hearts regardless of distance.
Although ingredients and preparation methods differ slightly, ultimately defining the flavor of each variation, take for example the type of rice used and seasoning; while Nigeria takes preference to long grain rice and the signature bottom smokey flavor from being cooked with
firewood, Ghana favors basmati rice. In Senegal, the use of tamarind, and palm oil to the base of the cooking pan, gives its own unique crusty taste.
No doubt, Jollof rice remains a staple in West Africa. Her base ingredients typically sum up to an irresistible blend of onions, vegetable oil, scotch bonnet chilies, tomato puree (or tin tomatoes), stock cubes, seasoning, ginger, garlic, and of course, rice ( typically long-grained), served with plantain or salad (optional) and your choice of toppings whether beef, chicken, turkey, or fish, either way, it never falls short, delivering its promise of deliciousness in every bite, well, depending on the cook that is!
Dubbed “awesome” by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, although several theories abound as regards the history of jollof rice, with most people holding the belief it originated from Nigeria and Ghana, this sumptuous dish traces its origin to the 14th – 16th century in Senegambia in the ancient Wolof or Jolof Empire, known today as modern-day Senegal. Wolof people are currently the biggest ethnic group in Senegal and The Gambia;
According to folklore, the classic traditional Senegalese cuisine was accidentally created by Penda Mbaye, a cook at the colonial governor’s residence when owing to a shortage of barley, she was forced to use rice for cooking. The Thieboudienne, a broken-rice meal is believed to be a precursor to the dish.
Today, the African delicacy’s influence can be found rooted in southern rice dishes, such as Jambalaya and Gumbo, owing to West African ancestors being traded as slaves in the American south during the transatlantic slave trade. Thereby spreading their expertise in such areas as blacksmithing, small-scale marketing, rice agronomy, and of course the iconic jollof rice cooking skill.
Interestingly, Jollof-themed competitions in major cities including, London, Washington DC, and New York over the years have taken center stage, testifying on world stage, the awesomeness of this oh so tasty culinary delight.