Monday, February 15, 2010

Food glorious food, part I

Oh Ugandan food, the stuff of legends. The Ugandan culinary culture ranks right up there with the likes of tajikistan, nauru, or lesotho. Not quite the delicate gnocchi of Italy, nor the perfected rack of grilled Tennessee ribs, Ugandan food is a utopia unto itself. However, ask any red-blooded Ugandan what their favorite thing to eat is, and without any hesitation, the answer will be "Food". Because by food they mean the staple around which every meal is centered, the hot liquid magma core of the ugandan food experience.
Ugandans eat food 2 times a day if they are lucky, meaning that due to the poverty level, many Ugandans eat a single meal a day. Food consists of the following:

Matoke: boiled, green plantains, mashed into a mashed potato like consistency. Matoke is not sweet, not salty, actually, like vodka, the best matoke is flavorless!
Posho: Which in surrounding countries is known as Ugali, is a millet-based cream of wheat like substance after it has sat in the sun a few days. flavor: none
Starch: name the potato, and they boil it! Irish, Cassava, sweet potato, yam, fried potato. the list goes on, but, you get the point.
Rice: white and brown, take your pick.

now, of course there are variations, and sometimes you even get bitter greens on the side or boiled pumpkin, but the above makes up 95% of your plate.

On top of the "food" you put a sauce, and this is where Ugandan variety really shines.
you can beans or you can have peas.
you can have meat, fish, chicken or Offal (intestines and stomach).
you can have G-nuts (pronounced with a hard "g", unlike Guinness which is pronounced Jeeness), a boiled peanut ( but they swear it is not peanut) made into a peanut buttery paste.
then you can combine the above, G-nuts with meat, G-nuts with fish, G nuts with get the point.
And so passes every meal, twice a day. We should admit, that Ugandans like to eat, and they do not skimp. They provide massive portions of the stuff, and heap it on like it was your last meal of Matoke, until lunch that is...
It is also cheap! the working man meal in the back of the wooden hut in the slums cost 1000-1500 shillings, (50-75 cents), while the more established "bistros" which we frequent are between 2500-3000 ($1.25 to $1.50).

Ugandans eat as above day in and day out, and they do not tire of the stuff, they do not change and god forbid they do not spice. The people know what they like and the Bugandans have spoken! give me the food!Now, Ugandans do have a special weapon in their arsenal of sustenance. One which they only pull out on special occasions....the big gun: Luombo. Luombo, or lowombo or lwombo, depending on the current spelling trend, is the above sauce options, but wrapped and steamed in banana leaf. So you have meat luombo, chicken luombo, fish and G-nut luombo, you get the gist. Luombo is nice, and if done well, can tenderize the meat unlike other stews, but mostly, it is the same stew wrapped in a banana leaf.

I must say, I do like the stuff, I think Rusha may be a bit more skeptical: the meat or intestinal tubes are not for the faint of heart and the heaping starch would give any Atkins dieter a stroke.
But there is a certain comfort in the knowledge that no matter what, you know what you are going to have for lunch today...and every day!


  1. Should I send you some of the artichoke and bacon risotto I had today for lunch, with the veal Marsala?

  2. Wow, not only are you handsome and witty, but well traveled as well; we haven't forgotten you back home! Happy, safe travels and culinary adventures!

    Tanya, Eliza and Chris