4 Popular Nigerian Foods With Surprising Foreign Origins

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Our Jollof rice is something that Nigerians are known for all over the world but what if we told you that this famous dish doesn’t have local origins? While most Nigerian foods are native to its people, others like Jollof rice were adopted from various parts of the world. Here are a few:

Jollof Rice

Jollof rice is probably one of the most common Nigerian food. If you go to any Nigerian party and you don’t see Jollof rice then there is probably something wrong somewhere. While we’ve taken pride in our Nigerian Jollof, it will surprise you that this favourite meal of ours did not originate from Nigeria. The origin of jollof rice can be traced to the Wolof empire also known as the Jolof Empire. The Wolof empire can be found in parts of today’s Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania. Rice farming was predominant in this region and Jollof started out as a dish called ‘thieboudienne’ prepared with rice, fish, and vegetables. The Wolof people scattered across the region and began to settle in different parts of West Africa. Soon, different tribes started to adopt their own types of Jollof. This is why the Jollof wars exist today.


Ewa Agonyin

A very common breakfast meal paired with the legendary Agege bread, Ewa Agonyin has become a favourite in the commercial city of Lagos and other Yoruba cities in Nigeria. All you have to do is wake up in the morning and you will see street vendors serving it very hot. If you were planning on eating something else that day, the aroma alone would entice you to it. As popular as it is with the Yorubas, it’s quite shocking that this sumptuous meal does not have a Nigerian origin. The term ‘Ewa Agoyin’ was coined from ‘Ewa’meaning beans in Yoruba and ‘Agoyin’ which is a tribe in the Benin Republic and a general term used by Nigerians to refer to Beninese and Togolese people. It was first introduced into the Nigerian diet by the first generation of Agoyin people migrating to Nigeria as far back as the sixties. It became more popular in Lagos in the 80s’ and started to spread in other Yoruba cities in Nigeria.


Okro soup

Okro soup is a very popular dish in Nigeria. While the Igbos cook it with palm oil, crayfish, and vegetables, the Yorubas like to pair it with their stew which they refer to as ‘Omi Obe’. Nonetheless, Okro does not have its origin deep in Nigerian roots. It originated in Southern Ethiopia and started to spread across West Africa during the Bantu migrations in 2,000 BCE till it found itself in Nigerian homes and became greatly loved by most traditional people and custodians of African food.


Fried rice

Fried rice is another popular food that we’ve adopted as our own. According to a contributor named Shalewa: “The different vegetables in it give it a very unique taste.” Well, here is the thing. Although different variations of fried rice now exist, it was first cooked during the Sui dynasty in China. To date, fried rice is still a very common street food in Asia. In some Asian countries, it is common to find fried rice street hawkers moving through the streets with their food cart and stationing it in busy streets or residential areas.


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