BBC – Travel – Jollof Wars: Who does West Africa’s iconic rice dish best?

BBC – Travel – Jollof Wars: Who does West Africa’s iconic rice dish best?

With its seductive aroma, deep-red colour and spicy flavour, Jollof rice is the undisputed queen of West African kitchens. It really is our beloved culinary treasure and a dish from our quite coronary heart and soul. But just whisper the phrase “Jollof” in West Africa and you could conveniently start out a fiery feud of enthusiasm. That is mainly because deciding which West African country will make Jollof ideal is an ongoing make any difference of nearby pleasure and rivalry.

Jollof rice is to West Africa what paella is to Spain, risotto to Italy, biriyani to India and fried rice to China. As a little one expanding up in Ghana, I gobbled Jollof down at household gatherings, birthdays, coming-of-age ceremonies, engagement events and weddings. Relished as a primary meal, this prosperous, mouth-watering dish consists of rice cooked in a flavourful sauce of tomatoes, onions and aromatic spices. These base elements are often layered with ginger, garlic, thyme, grains of selim (a West African spice), tomato puree, curry powder and Scotch bonnet chillies, while the precise components and preparing differ from place to region even from residence to household.

Though each individual plate of Jollof may change, each individual one delivers interesting flavours. The savoury sweetness of onions is extremely significant. Seasoning is essential. And the selection of meat – mutton, beef, rooster, goat, lamb or even fish – provides a distinct deliciousness each time. The meat is spiced and delicately braised in inventory right up until tender, in advance of getting fried and returned to the inventory. Then the rice is extra to the meat, inventory and spicy sauce and simmered until eventually it absorbs all the flavoursome liquid, leaving each grain aromatic, delectable and a luscious orangey-red hue.

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The origins of Jollof rice can be traced to the 1300s in the historical Wolof Empire (also known as the Jolof Empire), which spanned components of today’s Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania. Rice farming flourished in this area, and Jollof commenced life as a dish referred to as thieboudienne, well prepared with rice, fish, shellfish and greens. As the empire grew, the Wolof folks dispersed across the region and settled in distinctive pieces of West Africa, having their sumptuous rice dish with them.

Irrespective of its ubiquity throughout the region, number of foodstuff have induced as substantially of a stir as Jollof rice. These days, each West African region has at least 1 variation of Jollof, which the two divides and unites the location. Each individual nation and loved ones add their personal twist and interpretation, which probably is the root of the intense competition having put throughout social media, get-togethers and road-side chats. Black Foodie site, which explores food items and lifestyle through a black lens, explained it as “just one of the most interesting and heated food debates among the diaspora… it is the most epic food items beefs of all time.”

The key protagonists in a steam over who makes the ideal Jollof rice are Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cameroon. The Gambia and Senegal are pretty laid-back and almost never enter the Jollof controversy right after all, they gave it to the earth. Myriad versions gas the ongoing levels of competition with as a lot of similarities as there are variations and with oral traditions of passing down recipes, what else could be expected?

For occasion, my Ghanaian mom would stew the rice with the sauce and meat in a a single-pot dish, which is, of training course, my favoured planning. Nigerians and Liberians often use palm oil rather of vegetable oil to give a richer depth of flavour, in particular when cooking with smoked and dried fish. In Nigeria and Cameroon, red peppers are usually blended with the foundation components of onions, tomatoes and chilli to insert vibrancy and a subtle sweetness. These two nations also like to increase smoked paprika to give Jollof a smoky flavour, identical to cooking over an open up wood fireplace. A Gambian good friend offers of including smoked snails to her Jollof, a regular ingredient in The Gambia and Senegal.

Nigerian food stuff writer Jiji Majiri Ugboma thinks that “the Jollof feud amongst Ghana and Nigeria is arguably the most heated meals debate among any diaspora”. As a Ghanaian with numerous Nigerian close friends, I could not concur more. These two passionate nations seem to be to enjoy to hate every other, and each sense theirs is the finest Jollof rice. 1 major change is the sort of rice utilised. Ghanaians use aromatic basmati rice, which offers it additional flavour, even though Nigerians use long grain rice, believing that it is ideal for absorbing flavour. The two nations get pleasure from this gentle teasing, seeing it as a battle of wits the place each attempts to dress in the other down with phrases.

“Ironically, the feud in fact brings Nigerians and Ghanaians together,” Ugboma stated. “It is a really like language amongst the two nations and is equivalent to the dynamic of siblings teasing every other.”

The Jollof feud involving Ghana and Nigeria is arguably the most heated foods discussion amongst any diaspora

Musicians have joined in the banter far too, with Akon claiming Liberian Jollof is the most effective, even even though he’s from Senegal. Ghanaian musician Sister Deborah launched an anthem in 2016 called Ghana Jollof with lyrics which includes “Ghana Jollof, yummy Nigerian Jollof, it is amusing”.

Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam, who owns Teranga cafe in New York Metropolis, thinks that this banter is equally “playful and genuinely really serious”.

“I wish all wars have been fought like the Jollof war. No killings! No blood,” he mentioned. “I also believe that there will never ever be a winner. Everyone thinks that their mother would make the ideal. I delight in equally the Nigerian and the Ghanaian and even the Sierra Leonian Jollof dishes, but in my humble feeling, absolutely nothing compares to the authentic a person: Senegal Jollof.”

As much as West Africans enjoy these superior-natured variances of view, you will find no question our adore for the dish can carry us with each other. It is simple to fully grasp why all hell broke unfastened when celeb chef Jamie Oliver cooked Jollof rice and shared his recipe on his web site in 2014. West Africans forgot that they experienced a Jollof war likely on. Outraged, their collective response was to drop anything, maintain palms and charge for Oliver’s web site. They might have been arguing more than whose Jollof was most effective in West Africa, but they ended up not heading to make it possible for any individual to mess with their culinary treasure. Hashtags like #jollofgate ended up unleashed on Twitter. With components like lemon, coriander and parsley, Oliver’s Jollof was for several a twist far too much, even while he stressed that his recipe was his individual consider on Jollof. Africans had been concerned that if this went unchallenged, cultural misappropriation could quite very easily make Oliver’s version the official Jollof rice.

Nevertheless, by and large, the Jollof discussion has been positive and has improved recognition of and desire in West African food. The major 10 speediest-developing foods traits for 2020 predicted by Entire Foods incorporated food from West Africa: peanuts, lemongrass and ginger grains like teff, sorghum, fonio and millet and the superfood moringa ended up all pointed out as common West African flavours that “are popping up all over the place in meals and in beverage”.

And, as if an awakening in the diaspora, Jollof is suddenly just about everywhere also. Jollof food items festivals have been held in Washington, DC, and Toronto, and Jollof competitions in Nigeria. Environment Jollof Working day has been celebrated each individual year, on 22 August, since 2015, with photos and movies unleashed on social media.

As African dining establishments all-around the planet develop into ever much more mainstream, they are introducing even a lot more variants and interpretations to their Jollof choices. London’s Ikoyi dishes up smoked Jollof rice with crab custard whilst Teranga’s Jollof rice finds new kind in an “Historical Vegan Bowl”, topped with a sweet potato and black-eyed peas stew, a kale and organic pink palm fruit oil stew, and spicy plantains.

With the improve in Jollof’s world wide level of popularity, Thiam thinks that “We will see a rising interest for the dish and for African foodstuff in standard. Observe out for Jollof rice in your supermarket aisle.”

As energized as we are about the environment embracing Jollof rice, for West Africans, it is a lot more than a vibrant and delicious rice dish we delight in arguing more than: it connects to our loaded heritage and is a dish that will endlessly stay in our hearts. Even as we attract nearer alongside one another, the fireplace in the Jollof kitchen rages on.

Food stuff Wars is a series from BBC Journey that invites you to experience the heat when passions flare all around beloved dishes that shape a culture’s identity.

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