Jollof rice might be West Africa’s most famous dish—the smoky, spicy, tomato-tinged pride and joy of countless households across Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. In the Bay Area, however, the dish is still a relative rarity. So when a new Nigerian takeout spot called Jolly-Jolly Coffee & Kitchen opened in West Oakland last month, it was happy news for jollof rice lovers across the Bay—and, really, for anyone who appreciates well-spiced food.
Located in a former pupusa shop across the street from the West Oakland BART station, Jolly-Jolly specializes in what chef-owner Jahswill Ukagumaoha describes as street foods. These were the kinds of inexpensive dishes that Ukagumaoha survived on when he was a university student in Nigeria. He serves a fiery suya chicken skewer that he bakes in the oven. A breakfast plate features Indomie, Nigeria’s most popular brand of instant noodle.
But the star of the menu is that orange-tinted jollof rice, which is available in several different configurations, topped with oxtails or stewed goat meat or even kale. It’s a family recipe, passed down from the chef's mother. (As Ukagumaoha quips, “Who would teach a male child how to cook if not your mother?”) In fact, the chef had been making jollof for years, but he says it never tasted quite right until recently, when his mother divulged her secret ingredient.