World Jollof Rice Day, you say?
August 22, 2015 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Today is World Jollof Rice Day. Jollof rice is a traditional West African dish, but not a humble one. Subject of #JollofGate, the outraged social media response to chef Jamie Oliver's patently inauthentic recipe, aficionados debate the merits of special ingredients. Others prefer joining the loud brangling online over Ghanaian vs Nigerian Jollof. Regardless of your beliefs, join the world today in celebrating the tasty goodness of this much loved dish.
posted by infini (53 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
 
So favorited.
posted by glasseyes at 12:29 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hate to say it but Ghanaian jollof rice is....probably better.
posted by glasseyes at 12:31 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jollof rice is straight up wonderful, though it varies so much from place to place and person to person that it is an odd thing to be purist about.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:38 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


The writer of Ghanaian vs Nigerian is nicely diplomatic: Let me wax philosophical and say that what we see at play here is deeper than a fantastic dish. It could be the ever irrepressible Nigerian superiority complex and the typical African/Ghanaian view that Nigerians are aggressive and think they know all. We all have our prejudices and I am not about to go into all that. And then, the comments are lively. Worth reading for the craic.

Jamie deserved it though.
posted by glasseyes at 12:44 PM on August 22, 2015


I enjoy the idea of party cooking. This should have been in my vocabulary much sooner!

Great post, now I am ravenous.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:58 PM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that regardless of one's feelings, we should all agree that we need to work towards a world where one's ancestors don't *have* to die over neatly coiffed rice with chicken.
posted by markkraft at 1:00 PM on August 22, 2015


I really wish there was a Buy It Now app for food online, like I could press a button and HEY PRESTO in thirty minutes be eating my body weight in this delicious rice, which I have not had before but which I now desire greatly.
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:09 PM on August 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


I, also, would like to experience the Jollof rice, preferably prepared by someone who knows their shit (i.e., not Jamie Oliver), though I'd be willing even to make it myself if it came to that regrettable state of affairs.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:13 PM on August 22, 2015


I have to try this but, what is a cigarette cup? (from Sisi Yemmie's recipe)
posted by CCBC at 1:26 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't mean to further the contoversy, but doesn't it's sort of look like jambalya w/o meat and celery? Representative recipe.
posted by fiercekitten at 1:28 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not really?
posted by 23skidoo at 2:04 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would like to experience Jollof rice, even if Jamie Oliver cooked it.

It might not be traditional, but I'm sure that he'd make it taste pretty damn good.
posted by markkraft at 3:05 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


well, that doesn't really further the controversy as much as it possibly defines one of the many influences of jambalaya - a lot of people discuss the origins of jambalaya as the spanish trying to make a paella without saffron in the new world and then the flavors changed as the french influence rose, but much like what we consider "southern food" now, it was greatly influenced by the techniques used by black people who prepared pretty much all the food, so it makes sense that as this dish was coming together there were people who knew how to make jollof - or probably more likely, people who had a learned a rice dish from people that somewhere up the line started as jollof -and drew from those techniques while making jambalaya.

they are definitely distinct dishes though (who both have as many variations as there are stars in the sky).
posted by nadawi at 3:06 PM on August 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I just read Half of Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and jollof rice was brought up A LOT throughout the novel; I'd never heard of it before, but looked it up and have been wanting it since. This post will help me make that happen. Yum.
posted by urbanlenny at 5:20 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is this a version of pilaf? Or is it different?
posted by I-baLL at 7:15 PM on August 22, 2015


Mmmm...I was not familiar with this dish. Must have.
posted by biggreenplant at 7:27 PM on August 22, 2015


Back in college my Nigerian language lab instructor made her students party jollof rice. Holy shit. It's the stuff dreams are made of.
posted by Foam Pants at 9:15 PM on August 22, 2015




Authenticity is overrated, even in the very locales we say are authentic.

I say this, having eaten jollof in a truck stop in the Eastern Region of Ghana.

Like art, we don't know exactly what makes good jollof, only that we recognise it when we eat it.

Because we eat art.

Shut up. Your face is art.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:23 PM on August 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


Weirdly this dish brings me back to the Law & Order episode "Consultation," from 1993 (s03e10) in which an early suspect played by the always-smarmy Andrew Robinson (you know, Garek, and Dirty Harry's first foe) mentions the dish to detectives who wonder why he applied for a work visa for the victim, a Nigerian woman who died while acting as a drug mule. He applied for her via because his oil company has numerous Nigerian workers, and he brought in Nigerians who could cook their home dishes, "such as fufu, and jollof rice." I'd been wondering all this time what those dishes are, and now I have Google and MeFi to tell me.

The oil company exec was in league with a Yaruba Chief played by future TV detective Wendell Pierce (Det. Bunk Moreland) to import the drugs which killed the woman who was, incidentally, married to a cab driver played by the Chief's future The Wire costar Seth Gilliam. (Sgt. Ellis Carver).

Anyway in my head, it's this Nigerian (etc.) dish that ties the two great cop shows together. This probably make no sense.

Fufu appears to be a plantain mash, more or less. Could be tasty.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:46 PM on August 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


There will never, ever be a day that Nigerians and Ghanaians agree that Nigerian jollof is supreme. No matter what arguments or appeals to sense are made. Even if you got a bunch of double-blind taste testers. Because Ghanaians are stubborn, is what I'm saying. Those poor Ghanaians. Denying themselves a taste of greatness. *Runs*
posted by Ashen at 12:05 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love Jollof rice, but if I'm being honest, long grain rice of any sort, whether Nigerian or Ghanaian, Indian or Thai...

...it's disappointing. Good rice should be short-grain, taste of the water it was washed in, stick nicely to chopsticks and spoons, absorb the flavor of whatever is placed in the bowl with it, and let itself release the steam in a joyous fashion, pure and simple.

But if you're in Chicago, look for Yassa on the south side or Bolat on the north side. I kinda like Yassa more, but it's harder to get to for me.
posted by qcubed at 12:57 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fufu is cassava based, not plantain and there'll be a fufu special FPP soon enough. Some innovative technology emerging around it, even winning awards.
posted by infini at 1:27 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


On a side note, Nigerian twitterati are among the worst in making you snort coffee over the keyboard. Trending now is #whenaliensmeetnigerians
posted by infini at 1:35 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've never much cared for it.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:35 AM on August 23, 2015


Is this a version of pilaf? Or is it different?

Jollof rice (also called other names, such as riz gras, etc), paella, jambalaya, arroz con pollo, and pilaf are all in a family, being variations of savory rice dishes where the rice is cooked with onions and other strongly flavored ingredients. But they are from different places and the favors are different; there is a very universal aspect to "one pot savory rice dish" (though of course they aren't always made as one pot recipes) that you can find almost everywhere.

The question posed by Oliver's version is how far you can go from the source version before it is a different dish entirely. I'm personally not a purist at all about food and it looked tasty, but also not what I ate in west Africa.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:40 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thanks very much for this introduction to Jollof rice. I woke up today in the mood to cook something, preferably something new to me. Now I know what it will be.
posted by jfuller at 6:39 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


> there is a very universal aspect to "one pot savory rice dish"

Though, as nadawi said, with as many variations as there are stars in the sky. To which I add "on a dark night."


> Fufu is cassava based, not plantain and there'll be a fufu special FPP soon enough.

Please yes, ASAP. But also slight disappointment as before your cassava-not-plantain revelation I was thinking "hey, I can get plantains around here, I can try this." Whereas I've never seen cassava outside National Geographic.
posted by jfuller at 7:07 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


My objection above to Oliver cooking my fantasy take-out Jollof rice has nothing to do with him per se*; I'm sure his rice dish is fantastic. The simpler version without chunks of other stuff in it just looked tastier to me is all, and Oliver's version does seem more like a paella-jambalaya-cassoulet-type "one dish multi-food meal" affair rather than just . . . peppery-tomatoey rice. It all depends on what you're in the mood for.

*Although admittedly, the whole "celebrity chef" concept in general is sort of annoying.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:53 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have to try this but, what is a cigarette cup? (from Sisi Yemmie's recipe)

An old market measurement based on an actual cigarette tin. African rice merchants needed a small standardised measure for rice and other foods, and cigarette tins were readily available. Over time, it was standardised and used in recipe books.

I haven't found an exact volume conversion, but in Sierra Leone, a cigarette cup of rice was 8 to 9.5 oz. In Nigeria, a cigarette cup of egusi was 0.381 lb.
Different brands of tins were used. In 1975, Churchmans was the accepted standard for imported and processed rice, and Senior Service for unmilled rough rice.
posted by zamboni at 9:42 AM on August 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


By coincidence, I'm in West Africa now, and making riz gras with a friend -- which is basically the same thing. I've promised to make it for all my friends back home and take photos.

There is a lot of disagreement here about how it's made, but one thing everyone seems to agree on is Maggi cubes. Woe unto you if you ask if you can leave off the Maggi.

Fufu is cassava based, not plantain and there'll be a fufu special FPP soon enough.

It seems like "fufu" is used pretty inconsistently. I don't know about its use within Ghana, but Wikipedia says:
It is often made with a flour made from the cassava plant – or alternatively another flour, such as semolina or maize flour.
I've had the same foodstuff made with rice, corn, or millet. In Burkina Faso and Mali it's called /to/, which is a word that seems to completely unheard of in English, and the few references I've found to it in English writing call it "fufu."
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:07 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Search for ugali or nsima...
posted by infini at 11:21 AM on August 23, 2015


I haven't found an exact volume conversion, but in Sierra Leone, a cigarette cup of rice was 8 to 9.5 oz. In Nigeria, a cigarette cup of egusi was 0.381 lb.

Google seems to indicate it's 50-cigarette round tins, and sampling some ebay actions says they're roughly 3 1/4" tall and 2 3/4" wide (outer dimensions), which corresponds to 11 oz or 3.2 dl. Sounds like a bit over one cup would be an ok approximation, assuming it matches the rest of the numbers.

one thing everyone seems to agree on is Maggi cubes

Yeah, an Oliver obviously has no chance against the culinary heritage of Switzerland.
posted by effbot at 11:53 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


What purpose does the tin foil serve when cooking the rice?
posted by jamincan at 12:03 PM on August 23, 2015


It's strange, and I'm 550 km from my Gran's cookbooks at this moment, but this seems to be exactly like the recipe for risotto in England before Elizabeth David went to Italy. Maggi cubes and all. It could be some colonial thing??
posted by mumimor at 12:50 PM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Entirely possible mumimor. I've been observing patterns in culinary habits and some things just don't make sense unless they were externally introduced. From pap in South Africa, through nsima in Malawi upwards to ugali in East Africa to fufu in West - starch porridge of varying degrees of consistency seems to be a stomach filling, carb heavy staple. And its primarily maize flour in so many places, yet maize isn't native to the continent. One wonders about having to feed the labour force cheaply. Let me dig.
posted by infini at 1:16 PM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Linguistic evidence strongly suggests that maize penetrated the interior of tropical Africa from the coastal regions, but the timing and mode of its introduction cannot be established. The commonly repeated assertion that the Portuguese brought maize to tropical Africa from the New World cannot be documented at this juncture, although they seem certainly to have had economic motives for doing so. Maize was probably introduced to tropical Africa at more than one point and at different times. Maize was widely grown along the coast from the River Gambia to Sao Tome, around the mouth of the River Congo, and possibly in Ethiopia, in the sixteenth century. There is reference to it in all these places, in Zanzibar, and around the mouth of the River Ruvuma in the seventeenth century; and it was not only mentioned but described as an important foodstuff and a major provision for slave ships between Liberia and the Niger Delta during the same century. Much less information is available for the interior, but it clearly seems to have been unknown in Uganda as late as 1861. Until well within the present century (1965), it was neither a major export nor a mainstay of the diet in most of eastern and central tropical Africa, the bulk of the areas where it is now of major importance.
The Introduction and Spread of Maize in Africa
posted by infini at 1:20 PM on August 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


fufu is indeed made from plantains, and just about everything else it seems. As Jamie Oliver would say, its a concept .
posted by infini at 1:26 PM on August 23, 2015


Actually, there's far far more to this than just one ball of dough. *wanders off down the rabbit hole of links*
posted by infini at 1:29 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks, zamboni and elfbot.
posted by CCBC at 1:32 PM on August 23, 2015


In the parts of Ghana I stayed, fufu is either all cassava or part cassava and unripe plantain.

It has more to do with the process than the ingredients, though. It's made, usually communally, by pounding the boiled cassava (and sometimes also boiled unripe plantain) with large pestles by a circle of women. Like many communal jobs, there are fufu pounding songs in different places, too.

Maize/corn paste had a different name (kenke), and was served in a different manner: usually slightly fermented and in a different broth.

Pretty much everyone in Ghana I met only had fufu in "light soup", and it was either all cassava or a mix of unripe plantains and cassava. Kenke was served with a dish, but I can't remember what it was.

For a real treat, I recommend red-red, which, unlike jollof, cannot easily approximated outside of West Africa because fresh red palm oil is hard to get elsewhere.
posted by clvrmnky at 3:06 PM on August 23, 2015


For a real treat, I recommend red-red, which, unlike jollof, cannot easily approximated outside of West Africa because fresh red palm oil is hard to get elsewhere.

Isn't that one of those things that your local paleo fanatic can tell you where to get?

Otherwise this recipe says plain old canola works too.
posted by effbot at 3:33 PM on August 23, 2015


Jollof: the bagel of West Africa.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:56 PM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Otherwise this recipe says plain old canola works too.

It wouldn't taste the same, though it will cook it just fine. Fresh palm oil has a really nice taste, especially when used to fry slices of plantain.

and it was not only mentioned but described as an important foodstuff and a major provision for slave ships between Liberia and the Niger Delta during the same century.

I assume that the use of corn meal as a staple food in the slave trade and on new world plantations, and as a trade good in Africa, is why I have eaten basically identical preparations on both sides of the Atlantic of, for example, corn meal cooked up with sardines.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:13 PM on August 23, 2015


No, red-red with canola oil and food colouring is no approximation, even for a TV chef. Fresh palm oil is a very specific thing, and it is this ingredient that both gives the dish its distinctive taste and colour.

Once you package up the oil and store it at all, it loses much of the flavour and gets very bitter.

Red-red is best enjoyed in west Africa. Gives us another reason to go.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:55 PM on August 23, 2015


Red palm oil has a really distinctive taste. It's as much a condiment as a basic cooking oil. I can't see anything substituting for it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:16 AM on August 24, 2015


mumimor: there is indeed a colonial connection! your granny's recipe is probably the same! just like kedgeree (khichri) and mulligatawny (muligai tanni)

source

There is a legend on the invention of Jollof rice, known by the Senegalese inventors as Thiéboudienne. One woman from Saint Louis, Senegal, Penda Mbaye, a cook at the colonial governor’s residence, is reputed to have created the dish with fish and vegetables first using barley. Following a barley shortage, she decided to use rice, at the time still a luxury good having just arrived in Senegal by way of Asia in the 19th century. Eventually it became a favoured dish throughout Senegal and was elevated to national dish status. The rest of us then copied this great dish invented by the Djollof woman.

My good friend, Mamadou Diouf, professor of African history at Columbia University has a different legend on the origins of Jollof rice. He argues that it was invented as a nutritious dish to feed the Senegalese colonial army and that is the reason why everything – rice, vegetables and fish/meat is thrown into one big pot, to meet the exigencies of barrack cooking for large crowds. Through the world wars, the recipe was popularised around the region and today we West Africans are so proud of our African culinary invention – the Jollof rice.

[...]
Now that we know that this invention by French colonialism in Senegal is our West African contribution to the world culinary tradition, we need to reflect a bit on what it means to our underdevelopment.

posted by infini at 10:52 AM on August 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


So, super late the thread, and leaving Jaime Oliver and his mad fetish for garnishes aside, which really is the best jollof rice recipe? Nigerian or Ghanaian? If I wanted to make it this weekend.
posted by Diablevert at 3:39 PM on August 25, 2015


> which really is the best jollof rice recipe?

The one that gets you cooking.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:01 PM on August 26, 2015


Results. Sorry for the blur. If anyone has any suggestions on how to improve, let me know.
posted by Diablevert at 10:17 PM on August 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know, initially I thought I'd under-seasoned, but this seems to be getting better and better as it sits. Or so my return trips to the pot have taught me.
posted by Diablevert at 10:38 PM on August 29, 2015


Diablevert, thank you for sharing all the steps and the decisions! Now I'm tempted to try it...
posted by infini at 1:27 AM on August 30, 2015


How did i miss this?!!! As Mefi's resident Ghanaian and culinary expert, my (totally biased) opinion is that Ghanaian Jollof is far superior to Nigerian jollof.

Recipe for Ghanaian Jollof (my grandma's recipe who incidentally was half nigerian):

3 cups thai jasmine rice (any long grain will suffice BUT you lose out on the fragrance!!!)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 (or more, depending on your tolerance) scotch bonnet peppers (habaneros will suffice, but you lose some of the oomph that scotch bonnets give you)
1 ginger (about the size of two of your fingers)
6 cloves of garlic (or one small head)
2 small maggi cubes (with the star) or 1 big Maggi cube (either chicken or shrimp flavor) if you don't get maggi cubes where you are, order from Amazon because really it's the maggi that is the magic ingredient)
1 large can of crushed pomodoro tomatoes (or 6 fresh roma tomatoes + 1 small can of tomato paste)
1 lb cubed Meat of choice - beef for stew is best, but any cubed meat will do,
half cup oil
salt, cayenne pepper, Chinese 5 spice, ginger powder

Method
Season your meat with salt, ginger powder, cayenne pepper, (depending on how brave you are) and a pinch of Chinese 5 spice.
Cook meat in 3 cups water until it has been boiling for 10 minutes. (you don't want the meet to cook thoroughly because that will happen later)
Strain and keep the stock
Fry your meat until brown in oil and remove
Fry your onions in the same oil you used for the meat
blend garlic/ginger/scotch bonnet with a 1/4 cup of water and add to oil
let simmer for a few minutes
add your crushed tomatoes (or blend the roma tomatoes and add, then add the tomato paste)
Let simmer some more
Crumble Maggie cubes into sauce
Add meat back and let simmer for 2 minutes
Add rice and stir
Add the meat stock plus one cup water and stir
Add a pinch of salt
Lower fire to the lowest setting
let cook until rice is done (keep checking to make sure the liquid hasn't totally evaporated leaving the rice uncooked, If this should happen, give it a good stir and add a little more water )
Once rice is pretty much done, turn the fire off.
Slice an onion into thin rings, a green bell pepper into medium slivers and put on top of rice
Cover with foil and let it sit for 15 minutes until the steam softens the onions and pepper so it infuses in the rice.
Dish and serve.
Can be eaten with Shito (hot pepper sauce) - recipe for another day, or alone, or garnished with sliced avocado, or pretty much anything you want!
You're welcome...
posted by ramix at 11:44 AM on September 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


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