Growing up, my mother always made such an effort with our Sunday dinners. Some nights we had Jollof rice, but most times it was Nigerian fried rice. We rarely had plain white rice, which was considered regular fare—and Sundays were far from regular.
My mother learned this recipe from Auntie E., her younger sister and a chef. It consisted of long-grain, parboiled or (Golden Sella) basmati, cooked in a fragrant yellow stock and dried thyme, with mixed chopped vegetables folded in. If you wanted to take it up a notch, tiny pink shrimp (or prawns) and cooked, diced liver were the way to go.
The similarities between Chinese and Nigerian fried rice, other than the name, are few. Woks are great but they didn’t feature in my mom’s cooking. Her pots did, and in them, she cooked the rice in stock. Note that Nigerian-style chicken or beef stock is built on fresh ingredients: onions, ginger, garlic, chili pepper and seasoned with curry powder, dried thyme, black or white pepper, turmeric powder, and is different from Western-style stocks with carrots and celery. The stock is what principally defines the flavor of Nigerian fried rice, but also does limit the rice's shelf-life, so leaving it to cool overnight, refrigerated—often recommended for Chinese fried rice—isn’t ideal.
Rice is beloved all across Nigeria. In general, Jollof—less flaky, and not as involved—is more commonly prepared, but there are days when my craving for fried rice with liver and shrimp will not settle until I have cooked a pot, and served it up with coleslaw, roast chicken, plantains and some Chapman.
Want to hear more about Nigerian food? On our new podcast Counterjam—a show that explores culture through food and music—host Peter J. Kim talks dodo, jollof, egusi, and more with comedian Ego Nwodim and Afrobeat pioneers Femi and Made Kuti—check out the episode here. —Kitchen Butterfly
Test Kitchen Notes
Featured in: The Nigerian Fried Rice That Turned Me Into My Mother. —The Editors
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 45 minutes
- Serves 6-8
coconut/groundnut/other vegetable oil
raw & washed rice, long grain or basmati
Nigerian-style stock (see headnote)*
onions and carrots, diced (hard veggies)
spring onions, bell peppers, sweetcorn, peas, chopped (soft mixed veggies)
Nigerian/West Indian/Caribbean curry powder (or to taste)
dried thyme (or to taste)
black or white pepper (or to taste)
turmeric powder (or to taste)
liver, diced and cooked (optional)
shrimp or prawn, seasoned and sautéed (optional)
green bell pepper, diced
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the rice and sauté for 3-5 minutes, until toasted.
- Add 2 cups of stock to the rice, stir and cook on low heat, with the lid on for 12-15 minutes, or till stock is absorbed and rice has softened a bit. Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then fluff and set aside.
- In another pot, heat up the remaining 2 tablespoons oil till hot, then add the hard vegetables. Season with a pinch of salt and stir fry for 2-3 minutes before you add the soft mixed vegetables. Let cook, another 2-3 minutes.
- Season to taste with curry powder, dried thyme, black/white pepper, turmeric powder.
- Add the rice and stir gently, but well, so rice and vegetables combine. Add 1 cup of stock and the coconut milk, cover the pot and cook on low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes or till the rice is al dente.
- Check for doneness and seasoning, and adjust accordingly. Add more stock if required.
- When rice is ready, stir in chopped liver, sautéed shrimp and diced green bell peppers. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.