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Which Country has the best Jollof?

Jollof rice is a popular dish in West Africa and is considered a major dish in many countries of the region. It is a dish that is made with rice (long-grain rice), tomatoes, pepper (chilies), onions, spices, and sometimes with vegetables and meat. The dish is known for its vibrant color and rich flavor. The exact origin of Jollof rice is a matter of debate, and different countries claim it as theirs. The most notable contenders for the birthplace of Jollof rice are Nigeria, Senegal, and Ghana.

Senegal

Some believe that Jollof rice originated in the Senegambia region, ruled by the Wolof or Jolof Empire in the 14th century which includes present-day Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania. It contains rice, capsicum peppers, Indian curry and Mediterranean thyme, fish, shellfish and vegetables. In Senegal, oral history has it that a cook, Penda Mbaye, at the residence of one colonial ruler in Saint Loius, Senegal; substituted rice when she ran out of barley and so created the dish. The dish might have spread from this region to other parts of West Africa.

Nigeria

Nigeria is another strong contender for the birthplace of Jollof rice. The Nigerian version of Jollof rice is well-known and loved, and it has become a symbol of Nigerian cuisine. There’s no particular history on jollof rice in Nigeria but some sources have it might have originated during the transatlantic slave trade era when slaves were brought to work in plantations in South America from Africa.

One unique variation the Nigerian Jollof has over others is the quality of rice used to cook the meal and that is partially boiled at the husk while processing (parboiled). Most of the ingredients are cooked in one pot hence it is referred to as the one-pot rice cooking method.  It often includes additional ingredients such as peppers, vegetables, and various proteins like chicken or fish.

Ghana

Ghanaians also have a deep connection to Jollof rice, and there is a friendly rivalry between Ghana and Nigeria over who makes the best Jollof. Ghanaian Jollof often includes unique ingredients and does not include any green leafy vegetables. It is also served alongside shito a type of pepper that originates from Ghana. There is also no particular history as to the origin of ghanian jollof but it is still traced to the Senegambian region.

In the western world, there has been an increasing interest in West African foods especially Jollof. There is now a jollof festival held in the US and World Jollof day has been celebrated since 2015 on 22 August.

While the origin may be debated, what is clear is that Jollof rice is culturally beloved and an important part of West African cuisine. Each country and even regions within countries have their own way of making this iconic dish, making it a versatile and diverse culinary dish.