Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, is blessed with good weather and fertile soils. If you visit, you get to enjoy plenty of fresh, sun-kissed natural foods which are criminally underrated.
Ugandan cuisine is characterised by succulent fresh fruits with a healthy picking of fresh passion fruits, jackfruits, soursop, pawpaw, sugarcane and loads more to gorge yourself.
Uganda is home to over 50 different tribes and just as many districts if not more. This means that no matter which part of the country you visit, you will be welcomed with new food to try out. Its cuisine is influenced by the British, Arabs, and Asians (especially the Indians).
Let’s have a look at some of the interesting foods in Uganda:
Not to be confused with the luxurious Rolex watch brand, Rolex is popular street food in Central and Eastern Uganda. It is fast making its way to other parts of the country.
The main ingredient is the chapati which is made by frying a thin layer of mixed wheat flour, water, and salt.
There are varieties of chapati flavors, with some throwing in some grated carrots, green peppers, onions, and sometimes a dash of grated ginger. Originally, the stuffing comprised of eggs, tomatoes, onions, and a dash of cabbage in some instances.
Today, the stuffing has evolved to include things such as shredded meat, chicken, vegetables and even mushrooms.
Rolex was initially cooked as a breakfast food but it can now be enjoyed at any time of the day. One helping will leave you stuffed for a most of the day! That being said, original street Rolex makers prefer to make them in the morning and evening hours only.
Matooke is made from raw bananas or plantain. There is an art to preparing matooke which will be determined by which part of the country you visit.
The central region prefers to steam the peeled plantains and later mash. This process is long, taking up the better part of the day because the longer the mashed matoke remains on fire, the softer and more delicious it is perceived to be!
If you are not a fan of steamed, mashed potatoes then you can fry it into a mild stew with tomatoes and onions. You can also cook it with pounded g-nut paste or with eggplants. In short, there are many different variations in making this dish.
Mashed matooke can be accompanied by sauce such as fish, meat, or vegetables.
Sweet potatoes are mainly enjoyed in the Eastern part of Uganda where they are typically teamed and served with a sauce such as g-nut paste, meat, chicken or vegetables.
It is a favorite for the Basoga people in Eastern Uganda and goes well with a healthy serving of g-nut paste sauce. The ground nuts or red peanuts (most common) are roasted, pounded and the paste mixed in water, a bit of salt thrown in and sometimes some onions, tomatoes, and green pepper, then simmered to desired thickness.
In some parts of the country, the sweet potatoes are peeled, cut into pieces, and sundried. When needed, the dried pieces are then pounded, cooked, and combined with cooked beans to form a relatively smooth serving.
In the morning when breakfast time comes around, don’t be surprised when most Central, Eastern, and Western Ugandans ask for katogo.
Katogo is a blend of different foods in a stew or with a sauce. For example, you may find a mixture of cut cassava pieces with beans, steamed, and served with black tea.
You may find matooke fingers mixed with groundnut paste or matooke mixed with beans. Or matooke mixed with groundnuts and eggplants or garden eggs.
You could find matooke fingers mixed with silverfish, ground nut paste, and some garden eggs. Or Irish potatoes cooked into a mild stew with tomatoes, onions, and green pepper or Irish potatoes fried with some meat.
The favorite for most is matooke mixed with byenda (goat or cow tripe). The other is cassava and beans.
There are different variations of katogo depending on one’s preference and available ingredients.
Millet bread is enjoyed in different parts of the country-especially the Western, Eastern, and Northern and a few regions in between. Its preparation is much like posho, although you end up with a stretchy food. It can be millet flour on its own or a mixture of cassava flour and millet flour.
In Northern Uganda, Millet bread (kwon kal) is enjoyed with bitter green leaves (malakwang) or in small instances meat or dry fish made into stew. Traditionally, the millet flour is ground using a grinding stone, a rather cumbersome process. The meat has to be roasted before making it into a stew.
Charcoal or wood has to be used for the roasting, none of the fancy grills or ovens please! Typical sides include boo (greens), laa penna (ground peas mixed with moya-shea butter), or lakokoto (a thick sesame paste).
In Western Uganda, millet bread is generally served with boiled goat or cow meat, and Eshabwe(made using mature ghee, rock salt and cold boiled water).
The Bagisu people from Eastern Uganda swear by this sauce! It is made using bamboo shoots. The shoots are harvested and hung to dry above a fireplace.
When dry, they are soaked in water to easily trim off the hard parts then the shoots are cut into desired small pieces, washed, boiled, and mixed with groundnut sauce.
Amalewa is best served with cassava, sweet potatoes, or plantain.
In the evening (5 pm till late), a stroll through most streets in Kampala (the capital city) will find you meeting one chicken street vendor after another.
The chicken is specially roasted in a “TV-lookalike oven” according to the locals. The result is served with chips or fries and salad.
One bite into this delicious street food will have you ordering for more and before you know it, you will have consumed at least half a chicken if not all of it!
If you happen to go on a road trip while in Uganda, you have to stop for some muchomo!
Muchomo is essentially just roasted meat. It can be roasted chicken, cow meat, goat meat, chicken gizzards, chicken liver, cow or goat liver, or pork. Muchomo is generally enjoyed with roasted plantain known as Gonja (not to be confused with the matooke plantain!)
If you don’t go for a trip, worry not, as there are plenty of street vendors roasting muchomo at the roadside.
Posho is a staple in most homes. It is made from ground maize. The maize flour is mingled to desired consistency in hot water and served with different sauces such as beans, meat, chicken, fish, or vegetables.
When grasshopper season rolls in you will see sheer excitement on most Ugandan faces. The grasshoppers are majorly fried in their fat and spiced with onions and garlic.
To make this delicacy last longer however, it is deep-fried in cooking oil. Each bite of the fried grasshoppers will leave your lips oily from its juicy goodness!
Made from millet or sorghum flour, bushera is a favorite drink in Western Uganda. It has become a favorite for most in different parts of the country, to the extent of becoming a business for most. Any shop or supermarket worth its salt carries bushera.
There are many other delicious foods to be enjoyed in Uganda, not forgetting all the delicious fruits and nuts and locally-brewed drinks. You can wash down your traditional Ugandan dishes with some freshly squeezed juice, the true local way.