Uganda is blessed with a wide range of food. From matooke to millet, potatoes to cassava and a variety of coloured vegetables. It is also blessed with an abundance of foreign food. If you have exhausted your desire for chips, sausages and pizza, or if you feel like you would like to balance your meals with more home grown food, you’ve come to the right listicle.
What are the must try Ugandan delicacies?
Here are 10 Ugandan dishes you should try this year.
Katogo-Cassava and Beans
You have probably tried katogo. Most people living in Uganda have, but not all katogo is created equal. Will you dare to try a new kid of katogo this year?
Cassava and beans is a specialty kind that can only be found in a few eateries. If finding a restaurant that makes it is hard (it can be) this dish is surprisingly easy to make at home.
Boil and then fry some beans and set aside. Next, peel and cut your cassava into cubes and pour them into the beans and let cook. Cassava doesn’t take too long to get ready so keep an eye on this step. If left on the fire too long, the cassava will turn too soft. But if that is what you want to achieve then a longer cook time is just what you need.
You can test the cassava with a fork to see how soft it is.
Well-done katogo will see the beans cling to the cassava. The result? A meal that is (chef’s kiss). Add a side of greens to complete the dish. The cassava and beans katogo is a good one to try if you are tired of fast food or if you want to try something totally new.
Katogo-Matooke and Byenda
When referring to katogo, a lot of people think matooke with pieces of meat.
However matooke with a side of beef does not make katogo. Katogo is a dish where the two dishes mix so well they turn into one dish. The matooke and byenda (offals) combo is easier to come by than the cassava and beans one, but you may have to skip your uptown restaurant reservation and go down to the food market in Bugolobi to get it done just right.
Add some ghee and you might never stop eating. Ghee is rich in fat but it is also good for your heart. This might be a good reason to add ghee to the Ugandan dishes to try this year.
Dried fish in Ground nuts paste
This meal consists of dried fish-which is slightly chewy and ground nut paste. You can eat each separately but when the two are combined, you have a thick sauce that goes well with just about any food. For an authentic feel, try eating this with your bare hands. Yum.
From Eastern Uganda comes this gem made from dried bamboo shoots. Malewa is soft but chewy, almost the texture of firm mushrooms. It is hard to stop when you eat this dish.
To give your taste buds a little bit of an exercise, add fish in ground nuts and then have malewa and ground nuts sauce on another and see if you can draw any parallels. The first time I ate malewa I thought it could have been dried fish in ground nuts-minus the fish aroma.
Sticky, chewy and nutritious, molokony is another dish you should try this year. Here are some health related reasons to try it: its rich in calcium, magnesium and other minerals, it’s a source of protein, the marrow found in cow hoof is a rich source of collagen that strengthens bones and skins and if you are looking for some rehydration, it has the right stuff.
Making Molokony at home is a lesson in patience so you may just be better off eating out. If I can offer one tip to eating moloknoy, it is this: make sure to eat it warm/hot.
When it cools it becomes stickier and a little harder to eat.
Nile perch, also known as Goliath perch, Giwan ruwa (Water elephant) in Hausa and Mputa in parts of Uganda, is the largest kind of edible fish in Ugandan waters.
Although not native to Lake Victoria, Nile perch is dearly loved in Uganda. The giant fish is good as a stew and great deep fried. If you do fry it at home though, do it with all the windows open because you’ll have to wash the aroma of fish off your walls afterwards.
You’ll probably have to wash the walls even if you keep the windows open but it is absolutely worth it. With all the debate going on about the export of this fish and the limited amount left for the local market, be sure to get a taste before it becomes too scarce to buy.
This one is on my own must-eat list for this year.
Nang-nang are small fish that you can eat as a snack. The tale goes that when you chew them, the texture is close to that of fried grasshoppers. Although they are hard to come by in other places in Uganda, they are easy to find in West Nile and specifically in Pakwach.
Luwombo shows up on every Ugandan food list and for good reason, it is delicious. The aroma that comes from the steamed banana leaves is incomparable.
If you get into the habit of eating luwombo, you will find sauces cooked any other way to be utterly tasteless. Which is ironic since spices are limited in the preparation of luwombo.
Luwombo is a method of cooking that involves wrapping sauce; beef, chicken, groundnuts in banana leaves and steaming them. The result? Tender, juicy, smokey aromatic meals.
One of the first reasons to try grasshoppers is because they are rare. A true delicacy.
They are like a flower that blooms only seasonally. You have to get them while they are hot, literally. Grasshoppers have shifted from being cheap insects that were gathered outside homes to a huge money maker. When they are in season, everybody wants a bite. Sure, some people can store them and sell them off peak time but they never taste quite right.
If you are still working up the courage to put an insect into your mouth, take heart, there are two seasons in May and November. So you have until then to gather your courage. By the way, unlike some photos I saw online, we eat them with wings and legs removed.
Ntula AKA Garden eggs
When I first heard the name White garden egg, it took a while for it to register. There are so many varieties of these berries in Uganda, the white garden eggs and the green ones are just a few examples. Steamed or fried, they make a great side to a main dish. Mixed with other vegetables, they can make a rich veggie sauce for those who want to give meat a break.
We can’t mention ntula without talking about Katunkuma, bitter berries. These are steamed and served as a side food. The name doesn’t lie, they are bitter. If you have never tried them, do give them a go alongside avocado or something sweet like pumpkin to take the edge off. However, they are said to be very effective in the management of blood pressure.
Are all of these ‘Ugandan dishes’? What makes a dish Ugandan? Is it the rate at which it is consumed or its genetic roots? A bit of both perhaps. While it may be hard to trace the origins of some of these foods, it is also hard to divorce most of them from our identity.
Here’s a bonus for you: Steamed cassava
Bear with me here but cassava cooked this way can actually be enjoyable. In a world filled with spicy fried things, isn’t it just great to have a piece of cassava that has nothing added to it at all? Some say bland, I say refreshing and open to interpretation.