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Tchep or Jollof rice: how Senegal invented this dish that Ghana and Nigeria keep arguing about

With its seductive aroma, deep red color and spicy flavor, Jollof is the undisputed queen of West African cuisine. It is our beloved culinary treasure and a dish dear to our hearts and souls. But it suffices to whisper the word “Jollof” in West Africa to spark a heated and heated quarrel. Indeed, determining which West African nation makes the best Jollof is a permanent subject of local pride and contention.

Jollof rice is to West Africa what paella is to Spain, risotto to Italy, biriyani to India and fried rice to China.

As a child, I grew up in Ghana and gobbled up Jollof at family reunions, birthdays, coming-of-age ceremonies, engagements and weddings.

As a main meal, this rich and appetizing dish consists of rice cooked in a savory sauce made with tomatoes, onions and aromatic spices.

Nigerian Jollof Rice | How to Prepare Jollof | Chef Lola's Kitchen (Video)

To these basic ingredients are often added ginger, garlic, thyme, grains of selim (a spice from West Africa), tomato puree, curry powder and chili peppers, although the exact components and preparation differ from country to country or even house to house.

While each plate of Jollof may vary, each of them brings stimulating flavors.

The sweet flavor of onions is very important.

Seasoning is crucial.

And the choice of meat – mutton, beef, chicken, goat, lamb or even fish – offers a different delight every time. The meat is spicy and gently simmered in a broth until tender, before being fried and returned to the broth.

Then the rice is added to the meat, broth and spicy sauce and simmer until it absorbs all the flavorful liquid, leaving each grain flavored, flavorful and a succulent orange-red hue.

The origins of Jollof rice can be traced back to the 1300s in the former Wolof Empire (also known as the Jolof Empire), which spanned parts of present-day Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania.

Rice cultivation was flourishing in this region, and Jollof began as a dish called thieboudienne, made with rice, fish, shellfish and vegetables.

As the empire expanded, the Wolofs dispersed throughout the region and settled in different parts of West Africa, taking their sumptuous rice dish with them.

Despite its ubiquity in the region, few foods have aroused as much stir as Jollof.

Today, every country in West Africa has at least one variant of the Jollof, which both divides and unites the region.

Every nation and every family adds its own twist and interpretation, which is perhaps the source of the fierce competition that takes place on social media, in parties and in street conversations.

The Black Foodie site, which explores food and culture through a black prism, described it as “one of the most interesting and passionate food debates in the diaspora … it’s all about the battle. most epic food ever “.

The main protagonists in the controversy over the best Jollof rice are Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cameroon.

The Gambia and Senegal are rather laid back and rarely get into the Jollof controversy; after all, they gave it to the world.

A myriad of variations fuel the constant competition, with as many similarities as differences; and with the oral traditions of transmitting recipes, what else could we expect?

For example, my Ghanaian mother would simmer the rice with the sauce and the meat in a single dish, which is, of course, my favorite preparation.

Nigerians and Liberians sometimes use palm oil instead of vegetable oil to provide a richer flavor, especially when cooking smoked and dried fish.

In Nigeria and Cameroon, red peppers are often mixed with the basic ingredients of onions, tomatoes and chili to add liveliness and subtle sweetness.

These two nations also like to add smoked paprika to give the Jollof a smoky taste, similar to cooking over an open wood fire. A Gambian friend boasts of adding smoked snails to her Jollof, a traditional ingredient in Gambia and Senegal.

Nigerian food writer Jiji Majiri Ugboma believes that “the Jollof feud between Ghana and Nigeria is arguably the liveliest food debate in the entire diaspora.”

As a Ghanaian with many Nigerian friends, I couldn’t agree more. These two passionate nations seem to like to hate each other, and both think their Jollof rice is the best.

The main difference is in the type of rice used. Ghanaians use flavored basmati rice which gives it extra flavor, while Nigerians use long grain rice because they believe it is the best at absorbing flavors.

Both countries enjoy this sweet teasing, which they see as a battle of the mind where each tries to exhaust the other with words.

“Ironically, this feud brings Nigerians and Ghanaians together,” says Ugboma. “It’s a language of love between the two countries and it’s similar to the dynamic of siblings teasing each other.”

Ghanaian Jollof Rice By Tei Hammond Recipe by Tasty

Musicians also joined in the banter, with Akon saying the Liberian Jollof is the best, even though he is from Senegal. Ghanaian musician Sister Deborah released an anthem in 2016 titled Ghana Jollof with lyrics such as “Ghana Jollof, yum; Nigerian Jollof, that’s funny”.

Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam, who owns the Teranga restaurant in New York, considers this banter to be both “fun and really serious”.

“I would like all wars to be fought like the Jollof war. No killings! No blood,” he said. “I also believe that there will never be a winner. Everyone thinks their mother does the best. I enjoy Jollof’s dishes from Nigerian, Ghanaian and even Sierra Leonean, but IMHO nothing is wrong. comparable to the original: the Jollof from Senegal. “

While West Africans appreciate these good-natured differences of opinion, there is no doubt that our love for this dish can bring us together.

It’s easy to see why all hell broke loose when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver cooked Jollof rice and shared his recipe on his website in 2014.

MOB Kitchen — Oyinda's Jollof Rice

West Africans forgot they had a Jollof war going on. Outraged, their collective response was to drop everything, hold hands and load Oliver’s website.

They might be arguing over which Jollof was the best in West Africa, but they weren’t going to allow anyone to smear their culinary treasure.

Hashtags like #jollofgate have been unleashed on Twitter.

With ingredients like lemon, cilantro and parsley, Oliver’s Jollof was for many a bit too strong, although he pointed out that his recipe was his own version of Jollof.

Africans feared that, if this was not disputed, a cultural diversion could easily make Oliver’s version the official Jollof rice.

Overall, however, the debate on Jollof has been positive and has helped raise awareness and increase interest in West African foods.

The top 10 fastest growing food trends for 2020, predicted by Whole Foods, include foods from West Africa: peanuts, lemongrass and ginger; grains such as teff, sorghum, fonio and millet; and moringa, a super food, are all referred to as traditional West African flavors that “appear everywhere in foods and drinks”.

Party jollof rice made easy! Quick method. - Adeolas kitchen

And, as if it was a revival in the diaspora, the Jollof is suddenly everywhere too.

Jollof cooking festivals have been held in Washington, DC and Toronto, and Jollof competitions in Nigeria.

World Jollof Day has been celebrated every year on August 22, since 2015, with photos and videos unleashed on social media.


As African restaurants around the world become more and more popular, they are adding even more variations and interpretations to their Jollof rice offering.

Ikoyi from London offers smoked Jollof rice with crab cream, while Jollof rice from Teranga finds a new form in an “Ancient Vegan Bowl”, garnished with a stew of sweet potatoes and black-eyed peas, a stew of kale and organic red palm oil, and spicy plantains.

With the increase in popularity of Jollof around the world, Thiam believes that “we will see an increasing interest in this dish and in African foods in general”. Watch out for Jollof rice on your supermarket shelves “.

As excited as we are that the whole world is embracing Jollof rice, for West Africans it is more than a colorful and tasty rice dish that we love to argue over: it is linked to our rich heritage and will forever remain in our hearts. Even as we move closer to each other, the fire in the Jollof’s kitchen continues to burn.

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