“Jollof rice” is one of the better-known classic West African dishes. It is amusing to read that this is the “national dish” of any specific West African country, since it belongs to the entire region, with many variations in name and ingredients. It is sometimes credited with originating among the Wolof people of Senegal and Gambia, but is now claimed by many other West African nations, including Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Senegal’s famous “ceebu jen” (from Wolof words for “rice” and “fish,” aka thiebou djenne) is a similar rice paella, but is not the same. Ghana’s jollof rice has a distinctive red color from the tomatoes and tomato paste used, not red palm oil as versions from Nigeria might. It is somewhat reminiscent of Spanish rice. Sometimes another one-pot in Ghana, “Gari Foto”, is called Gari Jollof.
Jollof has infinite variations. In this section we give you recipes for chicken, meat, vegetable, and seafood versions but in West Africa distinctions are not always meaningful, and meat, poultry, and seafood can also be combined in the same recipe. In Ghana of the 1970s, the protein source was cooked with the rice. Increasingly, unless being served in a buffet, the rice is cooked separately, with the protein served on the side. This may reflect Western influence and ideas of proper plating of food and protein serving sizes, but my preference continues to be with pieces of meat/poultry mixed into the rice.
Traditionally in Ghana chicken bones are chewed and provide welcome calcium to the diet. However, outside of Ghana, boneless chicken proves less messy and is easier to eat and cook. While in today’s Ghana it is difficult to imagine being served jollof without Maggi or Royco seasoning cubes used, I prefer stock and seasonings such as fresh garlic, fresh chili pepper, fresh ginger, etc. I also remove the chicken skin. One challenge when making jollof rice is preventing mushiness. Cooking it in the oven where the heat is evenly distributed eliminates that problem.
Troubleshooting: If there is still liquid in the roaster once the rice is tender, uncover and let roaster sit in the oven for a few minutes to evaporate.
Make ahead: This recipe tastes good reheated the next day and also freezes nicely. It is easily doubled or tripled for a party.
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