Once Upon A Time, There Was ‘Jellof’ Rice

Isn’t it  amazing how almost everyone in the world has gotten their own take on how to make Jollof rice. It has even sparked the trending ‘Jollof Wars’ that caught the attention of so many Africans worldwide. War was let lose when a well known Nigerian public figure heralded that Senegalese Jollof rice was the best when asked by CNN’ s Richard Quest, “What country cooks the best jollof rice?”

First, of all! Growing up, I knew it as ‘Jellof rice’ and I think any Niger Deltan child would attest to it. Where my Pitakwa peeps at?! I can’t say for the other parts of Nigeria. I don’t know if  ‘jellof’ was used as a better phonetic representation of Jollof rice but here’s the thing; ‘Jellof rice’ was bae! It had all the richness and aroma you would wish to smell around you year in  year out. Jellof rice had no Oregano, green pepper, Jalapeno, carrots and all the exotic spices and veggies to get it accomplished. The only exotic spice used then was thyme. ‘Jellof rice’ was all-encompassing in its own glory. No additives needed. I have tasted and seen things that I’m marvelled at, that they call Jollof rice. Flood of recipes on YouTube, Restaurants must- have, but I always get disappointed at the rice-in-tomato sauce tangy taste that leaves my face as though I’ve been tasered. It’s either tangy, bland or way too spicy. Sometimes garnished to the Tee, with lemon rinds and parsley. A renowned British chef finally murdered Jollof rice, buried it and put up an epitaph. He even cooked it without ‘Maggi‘. Ghanaians and Nigerians (that carry Jollof rice on their head) decided to go for him on Twitter. A petition was even circulating online to take it off. Others have thought out of the box and come up with this 


With the emancipation of Cuisine in Africa. It seems food presentation and Food photography trumps food taste. Why am I feeling weary? I thought here in the Caribbean I would have similar food stuff options to get that distinctive Nigerian taste but I was wrong. The tomatoes taste different. The peppers taste different. I miss the real taste of Nigerian food and I miss my dear Jellof/Jollof  rice.  I have been craving for real ethnic jollof rice. I was lucky enough yesterday  because a Nigerian lady here in the Carribean, who gets her hand on Nigerian foodstuff, prepares this meal without compromise (though eaten once in a blue moon). She makes sure She uses all the Nigerian spices needed and not some Oregano, Jalapeno, bla bla bla exotic spices. When we ate ‘Jellof rice’, I didn’t have to know anything called Habanero and scotch bonnet. Darn, we just called them pepper! I love that we are finally putting Nigeria on the world map when it comes to cuisine but I think we are shedding off our originality a bit. I miss the good ol’ days when Jollof rice is just heavily packed on your plate with the complimentary chicken and you’d know you’d have a great taste especially if it’s ‘Party Jollof rice’. Nicely cooked over firewood that gave it its unique taste.

While peacefully mourning the loss of real Jollof rice in my life, I came across this! Travesty at its best. Whaaaaat?! This dear Bolé went to Havard and didn’t come back. Who does Bolé without Fish? What is This? My friend posted this picture and she said, she anticipated this lunch until she opened it and got frustrated. I can imagine , this was how they’d have presented it to me. “Madam, have a taste of our Tuna Plantain Zinger with a side of sweet coleslaw! Ara gbakwa gi n’isi there! What is this world turning into sef? Jesus should just come. I’m tired!

Who’s been feeling this frustration especially in diaspora? Does it bother you when a main signature dish is tweaked just for creativity? Let’s pour some Liquor to the demise of some original dishes. Iseeeeeee!


Fun Facts and Glosary

Maggi– A brand name of stock cube but Nigerians call every stock cube Maggi.

Ara gbakwa gi n’isi–  You are crazy. Synonymous to ‘Thunder fire you’, a very lovely curse in Nigeria. Hahahahaha

Iseeee!- A vernacular chant to seal  a deal. More like ‘Amen’

Jollof rice:  Was founded in Senegal by the Wollof ethnic group. So they named it after this group but as usual Ghanaians and Nigerians are drinking panadol for someone’s headache!


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  • Reply
    Precious @ Precious Core
    September 18, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Hahahaha I knew I would find something fun when I come here! First, we also call it “jellof” in Cameroon. Lol. Some people even call it “Jerof” But my food and nutrition taught me it was spelled “jollof”.
    Each country makes theirs quite differently! In Cameroon we love it with carrots, green beans and little pieces of meat.
    Oregano and jalapeño in jollof? That British chef totally murdered it. Ewoo!
    It’s surprising to know that the tomatoes and peppers in the Carribean don’t taste the same.
    Finally, those plantains look like plantain boats or stuffed plantains. I make something similar and I have the recipe on my blog. It is actually good if you take your mind off boli.
    Have a great week, Bubu!

    • Reply
      September 19, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      That you said it, makes me dare to taste it cos you’re one person that can’t go wrong with cooking and presentation . But even at that, my bole recipe should still be

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