The jollof festival held at Dew Drop Inn, Northeast Washington, D.C., on July 30 ended in a tie between Senegal, represented by Koité’s Kitchen, and Sierra Leone, represented by the defending champion, Mabin’s Kitchen.
The jollof festival was first organized in 2017 by Afropolitan Insights headed by Ishmael Osekre. Different caterers, each representing a West African country compete for the best Jollof rice in a trophy-contest, organised in multiple states in the U.S.
Local eateries and caterers from Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria were this year’s rivals for the D.C. region after the competition was rescheduled from June 11.
Aside the cooking show, there were vendors selling handbags, beaded jewellery, baskets, personal fans with vibrant African prints, and more.
Mrs. Atinuke Ogunsalu, owner of Queensway Restaurant & Catering, Maryland, U.S., represented Nigeria at the cookout. Her restaurant won the festival’s inaugural competition in 2017, while Mabin’s Kitchen from Sierra Leone, won it in a final competition in 2019. The festival until this year was on hold following post-COVID regulations.
Korkor’s Eatery represented Ghana, while Liberia was represented by Graystone Music Group, a local studio space with a small catering arm.
The caterers mixed a savoury tomato stew in white rice to get a rich, reddish colour of the famous West African jollof dish.
The tomato stew act as a main ingredient to change the colour of the rice but each group has its culinary herbs, spices and ingredients that give a flavour variety peculiar to each region.
Although meat or fish is commonly used as the protein source, it can also be prepared vegetarian.
“We’re from Senegal, known as the jollof rice originators,” said co-winner Adja Koité to The Dcist.
The history of Jollof rice may be traced back to the 1300s in the former Wolof Empire, also known as the Jolof Empire, which included portions of what is now Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania.
“Jollof is an ethnic group in Senegal and the people there are called jollof jollof. We have two types of jollof, one with fish and one with meat. So of course we’re the originators, so of course we’re going to win,” Koité added prior to the announcement.
Following the cooking, guests were expected to pick up a tasting box, sample each of the prepared dishes, and then cast their vote via a “voting web page.”
However, it was a tie when the competition’s winner was declared. It was a tie between Koité’s Kitchen of Senegal and the defending champion, Mabin’s Kitchen of Sierra Leone.
Ghana took 2nd place, Liberia took 3rd place while Nigeria took the 4th place.
The crowd jostled in excitement at the news as the two groups of winners attracted a sizable throng.
“All I have to say is history repeats itself, so at the end of the day I love my Senegalese brother here. It’s a healthy competition and I love it,” said co-winner Carol Khanu, the owner of Mabin’s Kitchen.
“To us, we represent the whole of Africa. So whether we win, we tie, we lose, we’re just happy to be here to share with the competition. That’s it,” said Pape Koité, co-owner of Koité Kitchen.
Earlier this year, the festival was hosted in Los Angeles, Oakland and Atlanta in a tour across states. It would be heading next to Minneapolis, Chicago, North Carolina, Houston and Boston in October.
“When it comes to jollof rice, it’s the unifying and dividing factor. Because each country believes they make the best. That’s why this is so exciting. It creates room for equal participation and collaboration,” said Okyere in an interview with The DCist.
Story by TheAfricanDream.net