Jollof rice is a dish that is very popular along the coast of West Africa. The main ingredients used in the preparation of jollof rice are rice and tomatoes, with various meats, spices and vegetables added to the dish depending on where the meal is being prepared. The dish is believed to have originated among the Wolof tribe in present day Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. The Wolof people ruled an extensive empire from 1350 to 1549. The Wolof Empire is known for having a well-developed political system, farming, gold and of course, Jollof rice, which they call “Benachin.” For the Wolof people of today, Jollof rice or “Benachin” is a fish-based dish made by boiling rice in a tomato-based fish sauce.
Jollof rice has spread all over West Africa, where each group of people that have adopted the cuisine, have uniquely made it their own. In Ghana, the dish is made with Thai Jasmine, a perfumed long-grained rice, and garnished with shito, a peppery condiment. In Nigeria, fatter rice grains are used to prepare the dish. The variations in the recipes for Jollof rice across different West African countries has sparked the “Jollof Wars” between countries in West Africa such as Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria where members of the countries compete to see who can prepare the dish better. The World Jollof Rice Day has also been instituted and is celebrated on August 22 every year.
By Iyeyinka Omigbodun
(Photo: Cook Pad; My Weku Tastes)