Comfort Food for a Resurgent Africa: Meet the Star Dish of Jollof Festival

Comfort Food for a Resurgent Africa: Meet the Star Dish of Jollof Festival

The recipe is deceptively simple: take an umami-rich tomato-based stew. Add just enough rice. Garnish at will.

This is the basic outline of jollof, one of West Africa’s most beloved dishes, easy to cook up but hard to perfect. Like mac and cheese or chilli, it’s ubiquitous, homey, and everyone swears they’ve got the perfect version. Jollof Festival celebrates this favorite, which appears on tables from Senegal to Cameroon, by inviting chefs to come together and contest for whose jollof rules. The fun comes to DC on July 2nd and to NYC on July 23.

The friendly competition plays off the mystique that’s sprung up around the dish, a tastier way to deal with international and community tensions. “Jollof is a cheap and common dish people make on a massive scale. It’s the target of expressing rivalry between countries, in a good-natured way,” explains Ishmael Osekre, the Ghanaian-born, New York-based founder of the festival. “This is still a big thing in the emigre community. We decided to let people come in and compete, and to let everyone get a chance to enjoy the results.”

Interest in African cuisine, part of a growing fascination with the culture and style of the extremely diverse continent, urged Osekre and his fellow organizers to create the event, which allows jollof masters to face off, while visitors sample different versions of the dish and its accompanying sides. “The sides really reflect the local flavors,” explains Osekre. “They showcase the ingredients and tastes from different parts of the region.” The festival will feature vendors representing eight different countries, each with their own jollof spin.

“In many ways, this simple rice dish is a mirror that reveals important parts of our lives, as Africans and people of the African diaspora,” muses Osekre. “I hope people of all backgrounds will come and taste and discover and just enjoy. Though of course, Ghanaian jollof is the best.”

Jollof Fest NYC

26 Bridge Dumbo, Brooklyn.

July 23rd, 2pm.

Jollof Fest DC

North Hall, Eastern Market

225 Seventh Street, SE Washington, DC 20003

July 2nd, 12pm



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