There are many rivalries between Ghana and Nigeria, Nollywood or Ghallywood? Azonto or Alingo? Super Eagles or Black Stars? But let’s not forget the infamous battle of the Jollofs. Needless to say, social media, especially Twitter has played a role in perpetuating this sibling rivalry between the two most prominent English-speaking countries of West Africa. Once the hashtag #GhanaVsNigeria is launched (usually at night, we all know this is a result of boredom), African twitter gets served with the funniest memes comparing Naija’s Jollof to Ghana’s.
I have always been a bit baffled as to how one defends a meal with so much passion, but then again Jollof rice is serious business, if you’ve followed the #JollofGate you might know how serious. Just to clear the air, I have tasted heaven sent Jollof from both Ghana and Nigeria, and I am originally from neither countries. A.K.A, I’d like to believe that I am unbiased.
To begin with, the question we’re all dying to find an answer for. Where did Jollof rice originate?
Being a foodie, and having toured West Africa quite a bit, I have known the answer to that question for as far back as I can remember, but a lot of people even nationals of our protagonist countries do not know that, Jollof rice originates from Senegal. Yes! The Wolof people of Senegal and its surroundings blessed us with the original recipe of Jollof rice. Although, in Senegal it is known as Tieb, an infamous Senegalese dish, the recipe remains essentially the same. However, like many other recipes, when it spread to other countries, each of them adds or suppresses steps to make it their own.
What makes the essence of Ghanaian Jollof?
Keep in mind that there is not a golden book of the perfect recipe that everyone must follow. Although, there are a few elements that most Ghanaians include in their Jollof rice (at least in most that I have tasted). I have lots and lots of Ghanaian friends and most of them, except maybe a couple few swear by throwing a little ginger in the making of their Jollof. Something else that I’ve noticed in the Jollof made in Ghana is the type of rice in use, most swear by Basmati rice (so do I now, as a result of almost two years in Accra). Last but not least, the [not so] secret ingredient of the dish is the mouth-watering black pepper sauce, yes fellow food connoisseurs, I am talking about Shito. You [who need to be introduced to the delish] may ask, what is Shito? It is my dears, the ubiquitous condiment of Ghanaian cuisine. It is an essential, made with pepper (duh), garlic, dried tomatoes, dried fish and prawns, any Ghanaian Jollof (or any other Ghanaian meal for that matter) that is served without Shito is not complete.
What makes the uniqueness of Nigerian Jollof?
You might know that Nigeria is quite a vast country with a diverse people, and its Jollof traditions are just as diverse. In my humble opinion, the best thing about Nigerian Jollof rice is that you never know what tasteful condiment will be added to the rice. I’ve eaten Jollof with green peas, corn, mushrooms. Jollof rice in Nigeria is a playful art, everyone adds their own personal touch while keeping it traditional (and of course tasty). The different Jollofs in Nigeria fall under two categories, party Jollof or regular home cooked Jollof. Like its name indicates, party Jollof is a festive meal. It’s usually made in large quantities, it has a particular smoky taste to it that is just stunning! My culinary goal is to learn how to make the Nigerian party Jollof (although it might be just for myself!).
I’ve written quite a lot, and you’ve read quite a lot, but at the end of it all, what I want you to remember is that like I said in the beginning it’s all just sibling-rivalry. There shouldn’t be a comparison between the two dishes, the Ghanaian people understand Jollof a certain way and the Nigerian people a make it a different way. I have tasted terrible Jollof rice both in Nigeria and in Ghana but I have also tasted life changing Jollof in both countries. Everyone puts their own spin to it and it’s great because it creates taste diversity (Yay for us food lovers). Nigerians keep doing your thing, Ghanaians as well, we love you all and your food!