The Origin Of Jollof Rice

The origin of jollof rice as well as who cooks the dish better is one of the most discussed topics when it comes to cuisine in Africa.

Jollof rice is one of the most popular delicacies in Africa especially in West Africa. It is always on the menu list both at homes and restaurants in this part of the world.

Jollof is a sumptuous delicacy that has made rice one of the top food crops in this part of the world. This particular food as delicious as it is has caused ‘war of tongues’ as people claim it’s origin.

If you have seen Nigerians battling it out on social media with other African neighbors on the course of jollof, then you have to know where it really comes from.

Debate About Best Jollof Rice

The Origin Of Jollof Rice
Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Osinbajo Picks Nigerian Jollof ahead of Ghanaian jollof.

West African countries such as The Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Togo, and Mali have jollof as one of their top menu.

Jollof rice has variations in name and recipe in different parts of the West African nations. It is known as ‘Riz Au Gras’ (french speaking parts of West Africa), ‘Zaame’ (Mali), and ‘Benachin‘ (other name in Senegambia).

Due to the differences in regional recipes, the various regions where jollof rice is common are competitive over which variant tastes the best.

Nigeria and Ghana have however led the debate about who own this menu or who prepares it better. At some point, it has led to a debate on social media between the two neighboring West African countries.

This is also seen in the ‘Citation‘ movie by Kunle Afolayan where the lead actor, Jimmy Jean Louis (Prof ND’yare; a senegalese academic) had to put an end to the discussion with its origin.

Although the cooking direction might be the same, the variations in recipe remains the slight difference in the menu.

Origin Of Jollof Rice

Jollof derives its common name from the name of the Wolof people. Based on its name, the origins of jollof rice can be traced to the Senegambia region that was ruled by the Jolof Empire.

The Senegambia region can be found between Senegal & The Gambia in West Africa. This particular territory makes up the Jolof Empire/Kingdom that ruled parts of Senegal from 1350 to 1549.

The Wolof/Jolof people with which the name ‘jollof’ is been derived are the originators of this sumptuous delicacy.

Jollof Rice Prepared In Senegal
Jollof rice prepared in Senegal

There are also claims that this dish which has rice has its main ingredient spread to other African communities through the Djula trades people of Mali.

The people were dispersed widely to the regional commercial and urban centers, taking with them economic arts of “blacksmithing, small-scale marketing, and rice agronomy” as well as the religion of Islam.

Well, Prof Lucien NDy’are confirmed Senegal as the originators of this popular dish in the movie ‘Citation‘. It is safe to say that Jollof rice is one of the things linking West African communities.

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