When I think of Eric Adjepong's food, I think of the West African dance called the highlife, full of Afro beats and guitars and brass instruments. The syncopation of the music moves you. Eric and his wife have a catering company in D.C., but most of America knows him from Top Chef. He represents the new African chef who gives a nod to the past, but also to the future. When you eat his food, you can taste that blend and complexity. He brings the African food tradition he grew up with into everything he does, and he does it in the most modern and beautiful way. This rice dish is inspired by Eric and his Ghanaian roots. I eat it and hear the trap beats of "Pour Me Water," a big Afro beat song. It's layered and deliciously complicated in your mouth. Jollof rice is such a beloved dish that every West African takes ownership of it. Nigerians and Ghanaians especially squabble on who makes it better and where it was first created. Historians believe it was actually created in Senegal, but that doesn't stop the competition.


Credit: Angie Mosier

Recipe Summary

2 hrs
1 hr 15 mins




For the rice
  • Place the rice in a colander or fine mesh strainer and rinse under cool water for 5 minutes, or un¬til the water is clear.

  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the peanuts, bacon, onion, garlic, ginger, scotch bonnet chile, tomato paste, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 min¬utes, until the onion is translucent.

  • Add the rinsed rice, crushed tomatoes, cabbage, smoked fish, carrot, water, coconut milk, bay leaf, thyme sprig, curry powder, cayenne pepper, and cumin. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Cover and decrease the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the rice is just tender. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 20 minutes.

  • Remove the bay leaf, thyme sprig, and fish and discard. Stir in the lime juice, scallions, chopped tomatoes, mint, and parsley.For the spinach: Heat the palm oil in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, garlic, ginger, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

  • Add the chicken, bell pepper, chile, and five-spice and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Add the crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, crayfish powder, chopped smoked fish, spinach, and mustard greens and stir to combine. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the greens are tender.

To serve
  • Top the rice with spinach.


Excerpted from The Rise by Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn and recipes with Yewande Komolafe and Tamie Cook. Copyright (c) 2020 by Marcus Samuelsson. Photographs by Angie Mosier. Used with permission of Voracious, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company. New York, NY. All rights reserved.