Ugandan cuisine will take you by surprise – very likely not the dining sensations you will find say; in a Thai or French restaurant on the international scene, but this is with a Ugandan impression this time.
…And if you are the kind who loves your food, then you are in for a treat, for Ugandans love their food.
Ugandan cooking is illustrious for its wide diversity and healthy preparation. Across the country and throughout the regions, Ugandans are proud of the dishes and beverages their country provides.
When visiting Uganda and traveling through the different regions, you will become familiar with Ugandan food popular in each area. Take for instance, if you are visiting the eastern region and in Mbale in particular, you would most certainly stop and try ‘malewa’ – a traditional dish made from bamboo shoots common with the Bagisu people.
Once well prepared, the malewa (the shoots), can be added to any stew to give it that fabulous taste and flavour you won’t easily find unless of course you are into global cooking and find yourself in eastern Uganda trying out Ugandan cuisine.
When in the central region, feasting on some hearty groundnut (peanut) stew is a must. The thick gravy with a smoky aroma sometimes, with an option of mixing it with mushroom, dried fish or any other vegetables is a favourite. Commonly known as ‘ebinyeebwa’, this is a must try – sorry for those with nut allergy! I wouldn’t even advise you to get any where near – for the temptation lest you try and spoil your memorable Ugandan vacation.
This stew will be served along with steamed mashed ‘matooke’ (kind of green plantain) with an option of rice, some vegetables and or another starch food; cassava, potato or yam as an extra. A beef or chicken stew may be served as a side dish too.
Northern Uganda is known for ‘sim-sim’ (sesame) from which a paste is made. This paste is mixed into a stew of beans or greens and served as a side dish. It is some times properly stored away and occasionally served as a condiment. A candy made from roasted sesame seeds with sugar and honey is a big hit especially with the children.
Travel west and you will be treated to yet another set of foods. And a part of this that you will certainly find is the ‘eshabwe’ – a ghee sauce; a commonly prepared traditional sauce in Ankole.
This exceptional sauce is many times prepared for special ceremonies or occasions – if you are lucky to be invited to one! The beauty is; you don’t even have to wait to attend one of these traditional ceremonies, you can quite easily make it at home.
This ghee sauce is very much a part of Ugandan cuisine and for some, they will not even have a meal without it, thus makes sense for you to taste some to see what the fuss is all about:-). I personally love it!
Ugandans love BBQ! – They will probably not do a good ‘DIY’ bbq job at home and will go out to find it. But the in-house thing about Ugandan cuisine is the pork, goat and some times chicken roast grilled on an open fire charcoal stove. Not so much of beef perhaps! But that will not stop them from roasting a bull to mark the commissioning of a new building.
Around almost every corner in the big cities and towns you will find these places well known for their bbq; bars, restaurants, night clubs etc. Some of these will even be make-shift bars that are retail corner shops in the day and only become bars after 6pm. They come in handy and they do lighten up the place!
This delicious roast comes with a finger of grilled ‘matooke’ (kind of green plantain) with an option of extra greens and vegetables to accompany it. This goes down well with a refreshing cold Ugandan beer or soft drink.
… And talking about Ugandan beer, which we surely can’t leave out of Ugandan cuisine, it is truly refreshing! In fact, it’s unequalled in the region – the 2 brands that stand out are; ‘Bell lager’ and ‘Nile lager’ and by any standards, they are not expensive, and as you go from region to region, feel free to also try the local beer of each region.
‘Uganda waragi’ is the household name for the Ugandan gin. Quite smooth and well balanced but you will also find a lot of local variations of this and perhaps as you sample them, you would do best to try a little rather than go overboard. For some of them you will never tell what the alcohol content is – so careful!
Feel free to make yourself a cup of tea of coffee – but it’s not really a thing of Ugandan cuisine. Not at the magnitude I have seen else where – yes! Ugandans do have tea and coffee but not anything near the British:-) In fact, many times, you will be offered a cold rather than a hot drink – probably because of the weather too!
There is a lot of tea and coffee – you won’t run out, not at any time and the beauty is that you can also blend and brew your own coffee from the lovely Ugandan organic coffee beans.
Over the years, a lot about Ugandan cuisine has had foreign influence especially from the English, Asian, Arab and Indian cooking. You will find; Chapati, Asian flat bread and the now common English tea (I still can’t make the difference and what really makes it English but there we go…), are very much part of Ugandan cooking.
…and then of course, to crown the Ugandan cuisine is the sensational organic fruits. Nothing will beat the mouth watering juicy sweetness of a Ugandan pineapple. Try it and let me know what you think here. The fruit variety there is, is yours to take. From the luscious mangoes, papayas, oranges to the passion fruits and more plus even the ones you have not tried before like the ‘Jack fruit’ – commonly known as ‘Ffenne’ .
Here are some Ugandan recipes for you to try out as you take control of your kitchen and hopefully when you fully find your feet, you will add to this list with your new found Ugandan recipe.
… oh yes! And before I forget, many of us may be used to drinking water straight from the tap. Please take extra caution because tap water in Uganda is not treated to a safe level for you to drink directly. If you can’t find bottled mineral water, always ensure you boil some water and keep it away in the fridge – that way, you keep safe.
All in all, Ugandan cuisine is always a pleasure, and you will find many restaurants to guide you in your choice of dining delicacies. Experiment and don’t be afraid to try something new – you have probably missed out on something grand for all this time.
Enjoy your stay and keep healthy.