|Alternative names||Benachin, riz au gras, ceebu jën, zaamè|
|Region or state||West Africa|
|Main ingredients||Rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, onions, cooking oil, Goat meat or Beef|
Jollof rice is one of the most common dishes in West Africa. There are several regional variations in name and ingredients. In Mali it is called zaamè in Bamanankan. The dish's most common name of Jollof derives from the name of the Wolof people, though in Senegal and Gambia the dish is referred to in Wolof as ceebu jën or benachin. In French-speaking areas, it is called riz au gras. Despite the variations, the dish is "mutually intelligible" across the regionas had become the best known African dish outside the continent..
Based on its name, the origins of jollof rice can be traced to the Senegambian region that was ruled by the Jolof Empire. Food and agriculture historian James C. McCann considers this claim plausible given the popularity of rice in the upper Niger valley, but considers it unlikely that the dish could have spread from Senegal to its current range since such a diffusion is not seen in "linguistic, historical or political patterns". Instead he proposes that the dish spread with the Mali empire, especially the Djula tradespeople who 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. Marc Dufumier, Emeritus Professor of Agronomy proposes a more recent origin for the dish, which may only have appeared as a consequence of the colonial promotion of intensive peanut cropping in central Senegal for the French oil industry, and where commensurate reduction in the planted area of traditional millet and sorghum staples was compensated by forced imports of broken rice from Southeast Asia. It may then have spread throughout the region through the historical commercial, cultural and religious channels linking Senegal with Ghana, Nigeria and beyond, many of which continue to thrive today, such as the Tijāniyyah Sufi brotherhood bringing thousands of West African pilgrims to Senegal annually.
The dish consists of rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, cooking oil, onions, salt, spices (such as nutmeg, ginger, garlic cumin) and chili peppers (such as Scotch bonnet); vegetables, meats, and fish are sometimes added. Due to the tomato paste and typically-used red palm oil, the dish is mainly red in colour. The exact recipe differs from one region to another.
The main ingredients of jollof rice are rice and tomatoes; neither has any saturated fat or cholesterol. The addition of palm oil does add saturated fat. Jollof is primarily carbohydrates, as it is a rice dish. Since jollof is often served with chicken, beef, eggs and/or turkey, it is complemented by the protein from those accompanying dishes. Fish is sometimes used as an accompaniment, and can provide the dish with omega-3 fatty acids, as well as protein.
Due to the differences in regional recipes, the various regions where jollof rice is common are competitive over which variant tastes the best. This is especially prominent between Nigeria and Ghana.
Although considerable variation exists, the basic profile for Nigerian jollof rice includes long grain parboiled rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, pepper, vegetable oil, onions, and stock cubes. Most of the ingredients are cooked in one pot, of which a fried tomato and pepper puree characteristically forms the base. Rice is then added and left to cook in the liquid. The dish is then served with the protein of choice and very often with fried plantains, moi moi, steamed vegetables, coleslaw, salad, etc.
In the riverine areas of Nigeria where seafood is the main source of protein, seafood often takes the place of chicken or meat as the protein of choice and there are variations of the classic jollof rice; including coconut jollof rice, fisherman jollof rice (made with prawns, periwinkles, crayfish), mixed vegetables jollof rice, and rice and beans. More economical versions of jollof rice are popularly referred to among Nigerians as “concoction rice,” the preparation of which can involve as little as rice and pepper.
Ghanaian jollof rice is made of vegetable oil, onion, bell pepper, cloves of pressed garlic, chillies, tomato paste, beef or goat meat or chicken (some times alternated with mixed vegetables), jasmine or basmati rice and black pepper. The method of cooking jollof begins with first preparing the beef or chicken by seasoning and frying it until it is well-cooked The rest of the ingredients are then fried all together, starting from onions, tomatoes and spices in that order. After all the ingredients have been fried, rice is then added and cooked until the meal is prepared. Ghanaian jollof is typically served with side dishes of beef, chicken, well-seasoned fried fish, or mixed vegetables.
Meals are served with white rice or, for an upcharge, an extraordinary concoction of rice cooked with tomatoes, carrots, onions, peas and shredded chicken called Jealof rice. 'It's the Sunday dish in my country,' [Esther] Mulbah says. It's hearty and comforting, as a side or a full meal.