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from: Western Africa | cooking method: boiling-simmering

Jollof Rice

One often hears that Jollof Rice (or Jolof Rice, Djolof Rice) is a Nigerian dish; indeed it is often made by Nigerians. However, it has its origins among the Wolof people of Senegal and Gambia who make a rice and fish dish they call Ceebu Jën. Since Nigeria has the largest population of any African country, it's safe to say that most of the people who make and eat Jollof Rice are probably Nigerian.

There are many variations of Jollof Rice. The most common basic ingredients are: rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, onion, salt, and red pepper. Beyond that, nearly any kind of meat, fish, vegetable, or spice can be added.

nigerian rice

What you need

What you do




Curry in Western Africa?

Does it seem strange to see curry powder in a recipe from Western Africa? Curry dishes are common in Eastern Africa, where there is a large Indian and West Asian population and a long history of trade across the Indian Ocean. Curry came to Western Africa, particularly Nigeria, during the age of British colonialism. British colonial officials who worked in India often acquired a taste for curry that they took with them when they were transferred to Africa.

Jollof Rice, Red Rice, Spanish Rice

The basic Jollof Rice recipe (with bacon or ham in place of chicken) is identical to, and probably the origin of, a dish called "Red Rice" in the Southeastern United States (and usually called "Spanish Rice" in the rest of the country). To make "Red Rice": fry a quarter pound of chopped bacon or ham in a skillet; remove the meat (you might want to remove some, but not all, of the fat) and use the fat and drippings remaining in the skillet to stir-fry a chopped onion (and maybe some chopped celery); reduce the heat, add a cup or two of rice and stir until the rice is evenly coated; stir in a chopped tomato, water (two cups for each cup of rice), and spices; bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the rice is nearly tender--about twenty minutes; stir in a spoonful of tomato paste and top with the bacon or ham, cover and simmer on very low heat until the rice is done, or transfer the skillet to a warm oven.



More about Jollof Rice in the Rare Recipes pages:

Maya Angelou

Mother brought out a recipe for Jollof rice that I had sent her

A Song Flung Up to Heaven (New York: Random House, 2002), Maya Angelou's sixth volume of autobiography, begins with the author returning home to the United States from Africa. In this excerpt, her mother shares a letter containing a recipe for Jollof Rice which the author had previously sent from Africa.

. . . Mother brought out a recipe for Jollof rice that I had sent her from Ghana. She unfolded the letter and read, "Cook about a pound of rice, sauté a couple or three onions in not too much cooking oil for a while, then put in three or four or five right-sized tomatoes . . ."
At this point in her recitation, Bailey began laughing. He was a professional chef in a swank Hawaiian hotel. The approximation of ingredients and cooking time amused him.
"Dice some cooked ham in fairly large-sized pieces," my mother continued, "and include with salt and cayenne pepper any leftover fried chicken into the tomato sauce. Heat through, then mix in with rice. Then heat quite a while."
We all laughed when Mother said she had followed the recipe exactly and that the dish was a smashing success.
(Chapter Two)


Other African gastronomical excerpts

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