I am an Ethiopian-American. I have many West African friends. By default, they feel themselves waaay too much to begin with. But get a Ghanaian, Nigerian, or Senegalese person started on jollof rice though?
They won’t stop.
Jollof is so serious, there’s an international day for it (August 22nd).
Common ingredients in jollof rice include tomato paste, scotch bonnet peppers, onions, and various spices such as ginger and cumin. Pretty much any meat can be thrown into this wondrous rice dish. The foundation stays the same, but different adaptations of the dish have made for quite the debate over the years.
This age-old beef about which nation has done jollof the most justice is starting to bubble again online with a trending video on Facebook from OkayAfrica covering the debate.
From the outside looking in, it is hilarious. It even makes me want to take a side, but I’ve only had Nigerian jollof rice so I won’t throw my limited opinion into it.
Anyway, here’s a fun post summarizing a lighthearted, non-political battle between African people. What are people saying about Nigerian vs. Ghanaian jollof rice? And why can’t Senegal get any love in this debate?
The Nigerian view: Our jollof is superior, we are Naija after all, EHEN
Even in the rare instance you find a mild-mannered, soft-spoken Nigerian person (lolol am I wrong though?), they will hear nothing you have to say about the possibility that Nigerian jollof rice is not the best. Their pride in their jollof is loud and proud. On top of that, a popular criticism Nigerians have of Ghanaian jollof is that it’s less refined.
The slander can get brutal.
How Ghanaian jollof looks compared to Nigerian Jollof! Turn up Naija Jollof 💪🏻#TurnDown2TurnUp pic.twitter.com/wbBVB3L45T
— Lazy Media (@LazyWrita) November 28, 2016
One of my managers is Ghanaian & knows I’m Nigerian so she gives me a hard time & I wanna poison her but she already eats Ghana jollof so..
— 🍫 (@BABYAFRlCA) November 27, 2016
If you love your life, do not eat Ghanaian jollof. I repeat, do not eat Ghanaian jollof.
— É (@Ebuka__N) November 18, 2016
This guy is in the same boat as me.
Jollof is good. But all I’ve had was Nigerian made Jollof and all I’ve heard is slander about the other type of Jollof 🤔
— 😭 (@deepfreezerzz) November 21, 2016
Nigerian is the only style of jollof rice I’ve had, and yes, it’s fire. While I’ve observed plenty of debates in person and online, I had to scour the internet for some more resources.
Busayo Oderinde, Nigerian blogger and food enthusiast, dedicated a post on the site BellaNaija to the Nigerian vs. Ghanaian jollof debate. Oderinde also lived in Ghana for over a year, so her familiarity with both nations’ cuisine is trustworthy. She says there are two key differences in the preparation of Nigerian jollof and Ghanaian jollof. One is the type of rice used. Nigerians use a long grain wild rice, whereas Ghanaians tend to use Thai jasmine a.k.a basmati rice.
Secondly, Nigerians have very special preparations for jollof rice when served at large gatherings and celebrations. This is apparently called Party jollof. Party jollof at its best is firewood smoked, and takes its time to be prepared.
Popular variations of home-cooked jollof in Nigeria include the addition of green peas, sweet corn, palm oil, or some combination of those ingredients. Also, Nigerian jollof rice is sometimes parboiled.
The Ghanaian view: Stop yelling about your jollof. Taste and you will see!
Criticism of Nigerian jollof rice on Twitter isn’t nearly as prevalent because Ghanaians are so busy defending their jollof from attack. That being said, more level-headed opinions in this debate say Ghanaian jollof is on par with the Nigerian version.
Genuinely don’t get the whole Nigerian vs Ghanaian jollof beef. I have had both and Id like to say they were equally as exquisite.
— Thabo (@THABO_C) November 18, 2016
Nigerian: WOW this Jollof actually tastes amazing!
Nigerian to Nigerian: If they say it’s Ghanaian Jollof, spit it out and call it poison. pic.twitter.com/nYG15xBqRt
— You (@funky4lyf) November 16, 2016
currently enjoying some Ghanaian jollof surprisingly
— ىجذصاب (@xenland) November 11, 2016
Ghanaian jollof is made with the more starchy basmati rice. Because of the rice’s high starch content, parboiling it would end in a disastrous, soggy mess. Based on experiences with a Ghanaian roommate, Busayo Oderinde says Ghanaians prepare a tomato stew with some form of meat stock in it before pouring in the rice.
On top of the different rice and cooking methods, Ghanaians put more emphasis on spices in their jollof rice. Oderinde defines shito as an oily condiment made with hot peppers, onions, shrimp, and ginger.
I had to do some more digging to find a Ghanaian with their own take on Ghanaian jollof. Through Google Plus, I found food blogger Jimmy Fuseini, who currently lives in Accra. As expected, her recipe for jollof rice included “15 Kpakpo shito (hot green peppers),” and a “1 tablespoon blend of spices (ginger, garlic, onion, bay leaves, cloves, rosemary).”
Spice and basmati rice, the key distinctions of Ghanaian jollof rice.
The Senegalese view: Umm, y’all ain’t even make the shit first
Both Nigerians and Ghanaians would clapback by saying, “It ain’t about who did it first it’s bout who did it right, nigga’s lookin’ like preeeach.” But that’s petty.
The Wolof people—most present in Senegal, but also in The Gambia, and Mauritania—are credited with first making the dish. In fact, the name jollof stems from the name of the Wolof people. The Senegalese call jollof rice theiboudienne, and Gambians call it benachin.
The origin of jollof rice tends to be lost on people. In a 2013 poll on British publication The Guardian, only 23 percent of an unknown number of respondents correctly thought Senegal was the birthplace of the famous dish.
I bet jollof, when made well, is fire no matter the style. But when a dish is this popular across multiple nations, a rivalry is bound to happen. If it makes for funny debates and good cooking, I’m all for it. I’m just gonna have to troll my Nigerian friends next time I hear one of them start getting big-headed about jollof rice.
The term Jollof comes from an pidgin English slang in the 70s which means to enjoy or to swim in it. Nowadays people usr other slangs like flenjor or flossing to mean the same thing. Jollof rice emerged in Nigeria Party scenes in the late 60s and 70s once people started to import tomoto paste. The name Jollof bears slang no link to walof people. The rice they eat over there called Che bu jen does not taste anything like Jollof rice that I know. You guys need to stop spreading false information.
Thank you for the comment, Owolabi! I’m sure what you are saying about “Jollof” being pidgin slang is true. If you’d like, here are some of the sources I referenced before making the claim that Jollof comes from the Wolof people of Senegal:
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/10/jollof-rice (this one calls Senegalese Jollof “Benachin,” an alternative to the term you used, “Che bu jen”)
All of these authors are West African, so I’d like to believe they’re legitimate authorities on the matter of Jollof’s origins. Hope this helps you understand where my information is coming from!