Gambia wins jollof rice competition!

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Gourmet Guide would have ignored this article, but the importance of jollof rice to West African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and other ‘Western Brethren’, prompted this article.

And this is coupled with the fact that Nigeria is well known for sizzling jollof rice… haba, there  is any party or public function any one would attend in any part of NIGERIA that jollof rice will not be served! Other delicacies may not be served, but not jollof…. So how did Gambia emerge?


Well this is the question  that must be answered!

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Gambia recently emerged the winner of the Jollof Rice Competition organised by the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA).

This was part of activities marking the Jollof Festival in that country.


The competition, which  reportedly  featured Ghana, Gambia, Nigeria and Senegal formed part of the “See Ghana, Eat Ghana, Wear Ghana, and Feel Ghana” campaign which was  championed by the GTA.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, the essence of the competition was to promote local tourism on a global scale.

Reports say Gambia prepared the jollof rice without tomatoes but rather with mustard, fish and other ingredients, making their jollof yellowish-white as compared to Ghana, which used tilapia, tomatoes and other ingredients to make their jollof attractive and tasty, giving it a reddish colour.

Nigerian and Senegalese chefs however used ingredients they believed could make their jollof super and delicious but, unfortunately, they could not win.

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The judges, who were drawn from Mexico and the Netherlands, said the judgment was based on criteria including presentation, aroma, and taste.

The lead Judge, Jan van der Veer,  however explained that the Gambians had “a fine presentation and a better taste for their jollof as compared to that of Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.”

Well, the question on every lip is why Gambia should be chosen in place of Nigeria and Senegal!

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Jollof Rice is a simple rice meal popular in the West Coast countries but especially  and  to a very large extent in Nigeria!

We can boldly say that jollof rice is the most common dish in West Africa. Apart from Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia and Sierra – Leone, countries like Liberia, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Cameroon and Mali equally relish jollof rice!

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Adults and children love this spicy and tasty meal and there is hardly any social function in Lagos where jollof rice is not served or at least listed in the menu.

It is however pertinent to note that the culinary and socio-political fight over  this popular meal would continue to be a life – time debate, maybe until Africans stop eating this rouge delicacy!


This is because controversy about which country makes the best jollof rice continues to reverberate, not just around the most populous Black Country in the entire world [ Nigeria of course] but across Africa and beyond!

It would be recalled that Nigeria’s Minister of Information Mr Lai Mohammed was recently criticized and even lambasted when he told veteran CNN Correspondent, Richard Quest that Senegal had the ‘best’ and ‘truest’ Jollof rice! Check the trending social media comments as confirmations.

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Infact, Quest had to defend the Minister on social media by  asserting that  Lai Mohammed meant no harm!

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Although Quest tried defending him, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Oshibajo later opined that Nigeria remains the producer of the “best Jollof rice”. He quietly asserted the dominance and supremacy  of Nigeria over all other West African countries through his simple comment!

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Even Mark Zuckerberg when he visited Nigeria in August 2016 stated that he relished the country’s “jollof rice and shrimp”, noting that “It was delicious and fantastic” and not to be “compared  to that from other neighbouring countries.”

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Nigerians have the most authentic recipe as the likes   of garlic, bell pepper, carrots, green beans or cabbage  are usually added or used to garnish the food.

The best way to enjoy this staple food differs from one country to another especially as this meal is seen as  a sacrosanct recipe. In ghana, it is eaten on its own or with fried, ripe plantains. The addition of green, leafy plants is much frowned upon there.


French-speaking Cote d’ivoire, Senegal and Mali relish their jollof with the use of okra or nuts amongst others.

History of jollof rice!

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According to Wikipedia, the name jollof rice derives from the name of the Wolof people, though in Senegal and Gambia the dish is referred to in Wolof as theibou dienne or benachin. In French-speaking areas, it is called riz au gras. Despite the difference, the dish has spread around Africa.


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The basic ingredients:

  • rice

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  • tomatoes

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  • tomato puree or paste

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  • onions

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  • salt and seasonings to taste

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  • spices {such as nutmeg, ginger, garlic}

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  • vegetable oil

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  • chili pepper

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  • other optional ingredients like  assorted vegetables

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  • meats or fish, chicken, turkey, pork, beef or any one you like!

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   The jollof rice served at Nigerian ceremonies and parties often have this added smoky flavour as it tends to be cooked over firewood.

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Nutritional Value 


  • Looking at its nutritional value, Jollof rice does not have any saturated fat or cholesterol!
  •  This ‘cabfull’ sumptuous meal contains carbohydrate, primarily from the grains.
  • Owing to the fact that  this rice is served with chicken, beef, eggs and/or turkey, the dish is fairly high in protein.
  • Fish in jollof rice is also another alternative to these meats mentioned above and can provide the omega -3 fatty acids, as well as some protein.
  • Vegetarians eat jollof as well. They would usually or often choose to eat their  jollof  rice with Cole slaw salad instead of meat and tomatoes. These include a mixture of cucumbers, carrots, maize, cabbage, peppers and potatoes amongst others. Some times with or without cream!

In Nigeria, there are different types  of jollof rice:

  • leafy jollof rice
  • coconut jollof rice.
  • mixed vegetable jollof rice
  • osikapa jelof{southern part of the  country}.
  • Concoction jollof rice
  • Shrimp jollof rice
  • Basmati jollof rice


Virtually every eatery,  specialized rice outlets, restaurants, bukas, catering management and notable hotels in Lagos, Port Harcourt and even Abuja can serve sizzling jollof rice! But why visit these places, take a walk into the kitchen and prepare this meal!


Recipe for 3 servings

  • 2 cups of rice [washed and parboiled]
  • 10 fresh tomatoes [blended coarsely]
  • 3 fresh peppers [blended]
  • 1 large onion [sliced]
  • 2 cooking spoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 kilogramme meat [turkey]
  • 3 table spoons ground crayfish
  • 3 large cups of meat stock
  • 1 tin of pureed tomatoes
  • salt and seasonings to taste
  • spices to taste [curry, thyme, white pepper etc]
  • 1 round nutmeg [grated]



  • Wash and cook the meat, seasoning with salt and adding some sliced onions.
  • Make sure you cook until the stock is produced and meat is tender.
  • Cooking the  Jollof rice begins with using the vegetable oil or any oil of your choice to fry the sliced onions, the pureed tomatoes and red pepper alongside any other seasonings, adding the salt to and taste.
  • Add the meat stock and the parboiled rice.
  • Allow to cook until the rice is quite tender, keep checking and adding the stock or water in bits .
  • While all this is going on, add the ground crayfish and check out the aroma … hmnnn!
  • Add other ingredients and be careful how you stir- its better if you use a wooden spoon !
  • This will prevent the bottom of the pot from getting burnt.
  • The rice usually takes on a characteristic orange or reddish  colour from the mixture.
  • Stir and simmer uncovered for few minutes and serve hot with coleslaw salad or any other garnishing!

Food is ready!



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