Nigerian Party Jollof: The King of Rice

Jollof rice is arguably the most popular party dish in Nigeria

Happy man eating jollof rice and moimoi (2019)The Centenary Project

The unbeatable jollof rice

Jollof rice is a popular dish in West Africa. The name "jollof" originates from a Senegambian kingdom called the Jolof Empire. Many countries of the sub-continent have their own methods of preparation, but the ongoing feud between Nigeria and Ghana regarding whose jollof rice is better may never be resolved. Both countries have different methods of preparation and also make use of different spices but, for Nigerians, there is only one king of rice!

Jollof rice and fried chicken (2019)The Centenary Project

A party starter

Jollof rice is one Nigerian meal that cuts across every tribe and ethnic group in the country, and among the different ways it may be cooked, "party jollof rice" stands out. It's cooked using large local cast iron pots called "koko-irin" which are placed on top of large chunks of firewood. The smoky heat from the charcoal adds a unique and unforgettable flavour that many people love.

Here are 3 steps for preparing it.

Fresh tomatoes and pepper (2019)The Centenary Project

Step 1: Getting the ingredients

The essential ingredients for jollof rice are tomatoes, peppers and onions which can be found in any good market.

Rice grains, 'Shinkafa' (2019)The Centenary Project

Buy the raw rice

Raw rice is sold in the markets: either in large bags or smaller quantities measured out. The bags come in 10kg, 25kg, and 50kg. Naturally, the size needed depends on how much is to be cooked.

Chili pepper and tomatoes (2019)The Centenary Project

Tomatoes: red and raw

Tomatoes give jollof rice its unique reddish colour. Fresh tomatoes are best used to prepare large quantities of jollof rice as they are cheaper than processed purees.

Ripe of Scotch Bonnet (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Scotch bonnet: a peppery partner

Along with tomatoes, scotch bonnet also contributes to the colour of the rice. But it also adds extra spice. The amount of pepper added depends on how much spice is needed.

Onions (2019)The Centenary Project

Onions: an aromatic condiment

Onions are always useful additions to any dish. As they are one of the most widely used ingredients in cooking because of the luscious flavour, they should be part of the jollof mix.

Pepper and onions (2019)The Centenary Project

Step 2: Mixing and blending

Once all the main ingredients are in place, they need to be washed, cut up, and mixed before blending.

Fresh tomatoes, pepper and onions (2019)The Centenary Project

Adding them all together

The tomatoes, scotch bonnet, and onions are washed and prepared to be pureed. The required portions of each of the ingredients are mixed together in a bowl of water.

Fresh tomatoes, pepper and onions (2019)The Centenary Project

All ingredients in...

The tomatoes, scotch bonnet, and onions are poured into the locally constructed blender that can effectively handle this relatively large quantity of food through a wide funnel.

Tomato and pepper puree (2019)The Centenary Project

...tomato-pepper mixture out!

While the intake is through a large funnel at the top of the machine, the output comes out of a pipe, below which is placed a bucket or bowl to receive the red paste.

Frying tomato and fresh pepper puree (2019)The Centenary Project

Parboiling the pureed pepper paste

After blending, the paste is poured into the large cooking pot to be parboiled in preparation for mixing with the rice.

Curry seasoning (2019)The Centenary Project

Seasoning for taste

While in the pot, the tomato-pepper mixture is seasoned with curry powder, thyme, seasoning cubes, and jollof rice spices.

Cooking of jollof rice and beef (2019)The Centenary Project

Step 3: Cooking and mixing

The tomato-pepper sauce is finally mixed with pre-washed and pre-boiled rice. Everything takes place in the cauldron, which contributes its unique flavour to the rice mixture.

Raw rice (2019)The Centenary Project

Prepping the raw rice

Elsewhere, the raw rice is prepared for cooking. It can be washed and scrubbed by hand, with water, to remove all the dirt. The result should be whitish grains of rice ready for cooking.

Parboiled rice (2019)The Centenary Project

Parboiling the rice

The rice is parboiled (pre-cooked) separately for a few minutes before adding to the tomoto-pepper puree in the main cooking pot.

Cooking jollof rice (2019)The Centenary Project

Let the mixing begin

The parboiled rice is added to the stew and mixed thoroughly to ensure that the rice completely soaks in the tomato-pepper sauce and changes colour irreversibly.

Cooking jollof rice (2019)The Centenary Project

A perfect chemistry

The rice comes together nicely, and the sweet aroma of the spices and the charcoal mixes beautifully to give the jollof rice its unique, delicious taste.

Cooking jollof rice (2019)The Centenary Project

The rice softens

The rice is allowed to continue cooking till it reaches the desired softness. Jollof rice is not very soft, neither is it hard. It sits somewhere in-between very nicely.

Cooking of jollof rice and beef (2019)The Centenary Project

Reddish, soft, and... delicious

After a while (and with the right amount of salt), the rice should have the right colour, texture, and taste.

Jollof rice garnished with onions in a local cooking pot (2019)The Centenary Project

Extra onion flavour

The cooked rice can be garnished with onions cut up as rings. This adds to the flavor of the rice but is only optional.

Jollof rice (2019)The Centenary Project

Stirred again

The onions are stirred into the jollof rice. Apart from the flavour, the onions help to absorb some of the moisture from the rice.

Preparing jollof rice (2019)The Centenary Project

Let the party begin!

The delicious party jollof rice is transferred from the cooking pot into other containers such as food warmers from where they'll be heading straight to the party!

Jollof rice (2019)The Centenary Project

Enjoying Jollof!

The hero of the party jollof rice is the smoke from the firewood during its preparation which gives it that smoky, semi-burnt
sweetness that merges beautifully with the taste of the tomatoes and pepper. In Lagos, there's almost no party (or 'Owambe' in Yoruba) in which jollof rice is not served.

Red wonder

Typical party Nigerian jollof is rich and red. Jollof rice is also prepared in homes, mostly on weekends. How Nigerians love to eat rice on Sunday afternoons!

Jollof rice and fried chicken (2019)The Centenary Project

With fried chicken

Jollof rice is usually paired and enjoyed with fried chicken. Along with fried beef, this is probably the most classic way to take jollof rice.

Roasted Chicken Served with Jollof Rice (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Jollof rice and chicken – a winner!

Jollof rice is served in most restaurants and eateries in various forms. But chicken is arguably its most common accompaniment.

Jollof rice and fried chicken (2019)The Centenary Project

Bon appetit!

Credits: Story

Curator: Patrick Enaholo / Emem Akpabio
Research: Emem Akpabio
Photography supervision: Omotunde Omojola
Photography: Emmanuel Paul / Ibukun Akinjobi / Buchi Media
Text: Emem Akpabio / Patrick Enaholo
Text editing: Munachim Amah

Special thanks to:
Mary Ihama
PotsnPans Restaurant, Lekki

© The Centenary Project

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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