My experience with jollof rice

Jollof rice…what a dear, dear friend of mine. I first encountered jollof rice during my 2017 stay in Ghana, and it has been one of my favorite foods ever since. In this post, I will share with you how I discovered this delicious rice, as well as the process I went through to develop the recipe. To find out how I make it at home, check out my jollof rice recipe.

My first experience with jollof rice

When I was in Ghana, I took pictures of everything I ate. This is where my food obsession started, and it has been going strong ever since. Once I had jollof the first time, I never wanted to stop. Below are some of the photos I took while I was there. As you will see, jollof can vary a lot even, from the same area of town.

Jollof rice photos from Ghana

jollof from another dorm
Jollof and chicken from around campus
This was from a restaurant and is hands down the best jollof I have ever tasted. The beef on top was flavorful and tender, and I will remember this exact jollof for the rest of my life.
best jollof
My second time having the best jollof, except this time there was no beef
jollof
A very close second to the best jollof I’ve ever had. This was from a food vendor at one of my dorm’s events
Jollof from my dorm
jollof
Jollof (on the left) from a dorm on campus, eaten with a boiled egg, a banana, and sobolo
jollof
Jollof, salad, and boiled eggs from the food stand near my dorm. Looks squished because it was in a bag

How I developed my jollof rice recipe

As soon as I returned home from Ghana in December 2017, I set out to replicate the most delicious rice I had ever tasted (not an exaggeration). At this point, I had basically no cooking skills, and therefore had the added challenge of not being able to cook white rice on the stove, let alone attempt something like this.

The first attempt…

I gave it a shot, and sent my Ghanaian friends a photo to gauge their thoughts. The feedback was gracious, and they were happy I was attempting to learn. However, it did make me realize just how far I had yet to go. Let’s just say, I’m glad I have honest friends.

Whatsapp conversation with my Ghanaian friend about my “American jollof”

Needless to say, attempt #1 was a disaster. As my friend clearly noticed, it was not well cooked. Well, it wasn’t cooked at all. It was stew and uncooked rice mixed together and heated up. It took me many months and many tries before I successfully cooked my first batch of jollof rice.

Doing my research

As I spent more time in the kitchen and started learning the fundamentals of cooking, I started doing research. I was learning how to make soups, breads, and so many others things, but jollof was always in the back of my mind.

Asking any Ghanaian I could find

Even when I was in Ghana, I knew making jollof was a quest I wanted to embark on. While I was there, I would ask Ghanaians I knew made jollof what their process was. I remember hearing that I would need to make a stew, fry the rice in it, then add water and cook it. At the time, this advice wasn’t very useful to me, as I had to wait until I got home until I could test their methods. As I started making it, however, I remembered what those people said. I figured their advice would come in handy one day, and it certainly did.

Scouring the internet

Once I was home, I needed more specific instructions. So, I began with a broad internet search: how to cook jollof rice. I quickly realized I had to add ‘Ghanaian’, as each country’s version has quite different ingredients and methods. I found several Youtube videos and blog posts (linked at the end of the post), and began taking notes on them. With all this information, I started to get an idea of how I wanted to tackle this.

Checking the library

Although the several hours I spent on the internet did give me a lot of insight, I still wanted more. I headed to the library, and looked for anything with a jollof recipe. They were few, but gave that final piece of instruction to craft a plan.

“Practice makes man perfect”

After I tried and failed, tried and failed, and tried and failed some more, I started making progress. I kept a log of each attempt, and afterwards would write what I felt could be improved on next time. Long story short, I cooked my first successful batch of jollof in February 2019…over 2 years since I came back from Ghana!

Conclusion

Ghana-style jollof rice is one of my top 5 favorite things to eat, and I make it about once every one or two weeks to satisfy my craving. There are so many different ways to make it, and even in my own kitchen it turns out a little bit different each time. The only way you will find out the best way to do it is to give it a shot and see for yourself! Go to jollof rice recipe >

Sources / Further reading

How Jollof rice became West Africa’s iconic dish and a point of banter between Africans — Quartz Africa
COOKING WITH MAMA E | GHANA JOLLOF #ROUND2 — abenalove
How to cook Jollof Rice — JustEnny
How To Prepare The Perfect Goat Meat Jollof Rice Recipe | Easy Step By Step Jollof Rice Recipe — Sweet Adjeley
Ghana Jollof Rice — SimplyWell.org

Have you ever had jollof rice? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments!

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