Jollof Rice, Bennachin or Chebb as cooked by the Wolofs of Senegambia

Jollof Rice is a dish that has always been linked to the Wolofs of Senegambia. We call it ‘Chebb’ or Bennachin depending on what side of the divide we fall (Gambia or Senegal).

The word Jollof Rice has become a global word due to preference of this dish by our West African brothers and sisters and our western hemisphere diaspora who introduced this dish to the new world.

The word ‘Jollof’ is loosely used to describe Gambia but the historical reference of Jollof is far from current day Gambia.

The Jollof empire had for centuries been ruled by the Njie Clan and their seat of power or the capital of Jollof was situated at Yang Yang.

The empire was at the crossroads of the Oriental/Sahara trade and the land called Jollof was separated from Futa Torro by a river.

‘Chebb’ is our dish of choice as Wolofs and modern Senegal has adopted it as their national dish.

‘Bennachin’ is the proper noun for Jollof Rice which is the nominal adjective based on its geographical origin i.e. the erstwhile Jollof empire.

‘Benna Chin’ is itself descriptive of the mode of cooking because all the cooking takes place in ONE (benna) COOKING POT (chin); unlike other dishes whose sauce and bulk food are prepared separately in different cooking pots.

Jollof Rice is the popular name of bennachin in international cuisine. Jollof Rice as the name implies is from the Jollof empire in present day Senegambia.

The state was Jollof, the people Wolof and the language Oloff. There was a time when the women of that area could not seperate the chaff from the grains so they pounded the grains and blew off the chaff. This means “wool off” meaning pound and blow in Wolof.

The first ruler appointed there was JanJan Njie. The people cooked rice mixed with the stew together sometimes with tomatoes to give it the red colour or without it. This is known as Jollof Rice or Bennachin or Chebb by many.

By Ebrima Jawo

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