As the holiday season quickly approaches, I cannot help fantasizing about my two absolutely favorite Liberia foods: jollof rice and rice bread. It is not mere coincidence that both of these dishes involve rice as this is one food item that I cannot imagine living happily without. From Sundays at my grandmother's house in Careysburg, Christmas gatherings on the beach in Buchanan all the way to Thanksgiving dinners in the U.S. right next to the turkey, these two dishes are a staple in my family. While I've made the leap to eating brown rice for hip-and-thigh-reduction reasons whenever I cook in my apartment, the holiday season and family gatherings allow me the perfect excuse to indulge. Just to give you a rough idea, I can safely say I counted at least 13 trays of rice bread at the recent funeral - Liberians love this stuff!
Jollof rice is most easily compared to Spanish rice and maybe even a paella in terms of the length of preparation time. I am 100% bias to my mother's jollof rice and recently my sister has stepped up to bring on the challenge. This dish is prepared with just about the entire kitchen: chicken, smoked ham, mixed veggies, a lot of seasoning including the almighty Season-All and maggie cubes upon cubes. While this is a dish that just about every Liberian makes for any real gathering, not everyone knows how to do this right, especially when they get into putting so much hot pepper that all other flavor in the dish becomes lost to your numbed senses.
The other staple, rice bread, should really have songs and poetry written in it's honor and I'm not even kidding. This is especially true when it was made by my aunt who just passed away. Hers was above and beyond my very favorite and when she died, one of my major concerns was making sure that the recipe did not go to the grave with her as has happened with my grandmother amazing rolls. While we were all grieving, in the back of my mind, I kept wondering when was the appropriate time to pop the 'who has the recipe' question to her children. So you can all imagine my absolute relief when one of her daughters confirmed that she had it and that her mother's rice bread would live on!
In addition to being made with rice, in the 'cream of rice' form, this dish has the other key ingredient of any tropical nation: banana. Whether for the forests of Liberia or those of Central America or Asia, some good, so-riped-it's-almost-to-the-point-of-being-overiped bananas really add the bang to this bread. Some like to get all creative with it and add in ginger or other things that really don't belong, but my aunt always kept it sweet and simple. Whenever she knew that I was going to be around, she would whip me up a tray. Yup, an entire tray of rice bread just for me! From mouth direct to hips, there was no restraint in me until the very last crumb was gone and my stomach was about to explode.
Anyway, what are some of your favorite, bring-you-to-your-knees dishes?