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Mississippi Food Culture Spotlight: Gambia: Benachin

Recipe and images by Lingerie Sock-Camara, owner of Mrs. L’s Kitchen

Benachin (also known as Jollof rice) originates from the Senegambian regions of West Africa, commonly Senegal and Gambia. The name “bena-chin” means “one pot,” which is how the dish is prepared, making it one of the easiest and most delicious dishes in West Africa.


Benachin is also very similar to the red rice of Georgia and South Carolina, dating back to when west African slaves brought their native dishes with them (Benachin being one of many). One of the reasons Benachin is so popular in West Africa is its versatility. The dish can be made with beef, chicken, fish - or any protein, really - and almost any vegetable. It can be cooked with or without the tomato paste that gives it its red color. Either way, the dish is delicious.

In the Gambia, Benachin is usually prepared on special occasions -- such as Kwanzaa -- or for a special guest because of the time and patience it requires. It is best enjoyed when everyone sits together and eats from the same plate.


benachin, a one-pot holiday meal

Benachin with Beef and Vegetables Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 pound beef, cut into bite size pieces

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced

  • 1/2 green pepper, diced

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 3 cups water

  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste (optional)

  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced

  • salt and pepper

  • red pepper flakes to taste

  • 2 cups rice, washed

  • Baby carrots

  • Whole okra

  • 1/2 cabbage, cut into wedges

  • Lime (optional)

Method:

  1. In a large deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add beef, season with salt and pepper and cook until brown.

  2. Remove and set aside.

  3. Add chopped onions, bell pepper, minced garlic and tomato paste, stirring until onions are cooked down and mixture becomes a paste-like consistency. Keep stirring pot to prevent burning, about 10-15 minutes. (The longer you stir, the richer the flavor; be patient!)

  4. Add diced tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir for 5 minutes.

  5. Add water, seared beef, carrots, okra, cabbage and bring to a boil. Partially cover with lid and allow vegetables to cook.

  6. Once vegetables are tender, remove everything except the beef and set aside.

  7. Adjust seasoning, adding more salt if needed.

  8. Add washed rice, stirring until totally coated in broth. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and put on the lid. Cook 10 minutes.

  9. Stir again and replace the cover, cooking until the rice has absorbed the liquid, about 20 minutes.

  10. Remove from the heat. Squeeze in half a lime for extra flavor (optional). Spoon onto serving dish and garnish with cooked vegetables.

NOTE: for a more authentic taste, blend a bundle of parsley, half a green pepper, three garlic cloves, a small piece of ginger root, the juice of half a lime, one Tablespoon of Dijon mustard, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and add in step #5. As described in the introduction, you can substitute any vegetables you want.

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