Ms. Sika Mortoo, a 24-year-old aspiring chef has won the maiden edition of the Onga Ghana Jollof Battle.
Sika defeated seven other competitors from across the country and will now face a Nigerian opponent on August 24 for the chance to win $2,000 and hand Ghana the edge in the never-ending contest to determine who serves the best Jollof among the two West African countries.
Sika, who caters at the East Legon Guest Lodge said her use of fresh herbs in preparing her stew for her jollof rice won her the contest held on August 9 in Accra.
She said Ghana Jollof was the best in the world and she hopes her winning recipe would carry the contest with her Nigerian opponent.
“I just incorporated fress ideas and something different and new in cooking my Jollof,” an elated Sika told Graphic Online in an interview.
“Usually, as Ghanaians, we don’t cook with fresh herbs, so I incorporated fresh herbs in my rice which added a fresh flavor. However, there is always room for improvement but I know that Ghana Jollof is the best in the whole of Africa”.
Jollof rice is a one-pot rice dish popular in many West African countries. It is one of the most common dishes in Western Africa, consumed throughout the regions of Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Togo, Liberia, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and DR Congo.
In West Africa, it is a common favorite at ceremonies such as weddings, graduations and birthday. There are several regional variations in name and ingredients.
Eight contestants selected after being recommended to Onga through a social media ballot and interview stage were allotted two hours and 30 minutes to prepare their jollof rice dish.
The eight competitors
They later presented the dish to a four-member judging panel comprising Chef Joe Ansah, Chef Maxwell Odun Anakwa, Mary Oseku-Afful, and Theodora Naa Suma Anokye.
The panel stated that they awarded Sika 83% marks based on the presentation, taste, appearance, neatness and her use of time.
Gladys Kafui (72%) and Selorm Gakpey (68%) came second and third respectively.
Explaining why Sika won the contest, Judge Oseku-Afful, a lecturer at the Hotel, Catering and Institutional Management Department at the Accra Technical University disclosed that her innovative use of a carrot puree and her presentation gave her the winning taste.
“We were looking out for innovation because we knew that all of them could cook Jollof. Actually, there was a tie between Sika and Gladys in terms of taste but Sika’s dish was richer because of her use of ingredients.
“She added a twist to the whole dish in terms of presentation. She used a carrot puree which made the Jollof taste very nice and her use of water ensured that her Jollof wasn’t too dry or too soft”.
Renewing ties with Nigeria
The Brand Manager of Onga, Madam Linda Nartey disclosed that as part of efforts to consolidate the existing cordial relations between Ghana and Nigeria, the Onga Jollof Battle, a contest between Ghana and Nigeria would be held on August 24 at the Crystal Park Garden in East Legon, Accra.
She said the event would also double as a celebration of World Jollof Day which is celebrated by African youth on August 22.
“The event reaffirms Onga’s commitment to supporting young budding talents in Ghana’s culinary space,” she said.