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Lagos food festival shows off Nigeria's 'Jollof' muscle


One of the most heated food debates in Africa – who makes the best Jollof? A humble yet flavour packed dish made of rice and a mix of blended tomatoes, onions, spices and sometimes, meat.

The dish is popular across West Africa but the controversy lies in which country can lay claim to the tastiest version.

Straying too far from the original recipe however, once got British celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver in the crossfire of a social media scandal dubbed #Jollofgate. He added whole vegetables, coriander, a lemon wedge and parsley.

We already know who the winner is. Nigerian jollof is the winner, any day, any time

Before that, supermarket chain Tesco was forced to remove its Jollof rice recipe from its website following complaints on Twitter.

Nigerians consume Jollof religiously. It is why Jollof Rice Festival, held in Lagos on Sunday (August 19) was attended by more than 4,000 people.

“I don’t think I can go a whole week without eating jollof rice, that is how it important it is and as you can see I am even having some of it right now, even though there are other options of other things that I could have chosen,” said Toyosi Ojo.

“There is a party, if there is no jollof rice the party is not yet over so I think it is just something that the Nigerian society, we have come to all agree with generally that it is a very important meal, wherever,” said Debola Ayeni.

The dish is said to have originated from Senegal, where Jollof is a Wolof word meaning “one pot” but it is also popular in countries like Gambia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Liberia, Mali, Cameroon and Nigeria.

Experts say the key to great tasting Jollof is blending all the ingredients with the rice.

Nigerians however claim, they are the real winners of what has become known as “Jollof Wars”.

“We already know who the winner is. Nigerian jollof is the winner, any day, any time and its just… maybe they are just trying to believe what they want to believe – other countries, I don’t even know about those other countries, I am not even interested in tasting their jollof because I have everything I need in Nigerian Jollof,” said Odetola Ifeoluwa, a guest at the a festival.

At the festival, chefs worked with guests to experiment with secret ingredients.

Foodies in Nigeria do not argue about its origins, but they claim to have tastefully made it their own – a celebration of Nigerian culture.

“Jollof rice is originally from Senegal. It is not indigenous to Nigeria but Nigerians do it really, really well, and Nigerians have found a way to bring jollof rice into practically everything they do… so birthdays, funerals, parties, Nigerian jollof goes with everything and you know jollof rice has become that main stay,” said the festival’s organizer, popular chef and blogger, Ozoz Sokoh.

When Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed told CNN’s Richard Quest that Senegal had the best Jollof, some twitter users suggested he should be fired for treason.

For Nigeria, there are no grey areas. There were more than 30 jollof vendors at the festival held at a park in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos.

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