Monday, February 15, 2010
Food glorious food, part II
For anyone who knows Guy and I, you will not be surprised that there is not one, but two entries on food. We love to eat and are eating our way through Uganda, both trying to eat traditional food and we are lucky in that Kampala has a large enough foreign population that you can actually get pretty good food that is not Ugandan as well. There are some amazing Indian restaurants, Ethiopian food, Chinese food, a Turkish place, some okay Italian places, a Thai restaurant that was not half bad, an amazing steak restaurant and we have heard that there is a Japanese/sushi restaurant, although we have not been brave enough to try it.
We are not starving out here, have no fear.
What is even more fun than sitting down in a restaurant to eat food and your favorite sauce, is eating street food. Some warn against this practice while traveling as it is probably the most likely reason to suffer gastrointestinal distress. We have found, however, that some of the best delicacies come from the street and they are dirt cheap and really fun to eat. Guy is more adventurous than me and has subsequently had 2 experiences with the wonderful antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, but overall we have been spared much in the way of problems and have gotten to know what people really eat.
Most people eat lunch and they eat a LOT of food--so much so that work in the afternoon is close to non-existent as everyone settles into a coma after consuming several pounds of starch. For breakfast and dinner, many Ugandans simply snack on the street. Almost everything you can get is fried in a pot or griddle over a coal fire b.b.q made of an old car wheel and is served in a flimsy clear plastic bag:
-chapati: a staple snack food made from flour and water and then fried in oil on a flat griddle pan and served plain or mixed with other snacks.
-samosas: filled with peas usually, but for extra - special occasions they are filled with meat.
-chips: (french fries), in a wok of boiling oil right there on the street
-banana pancakes: there are about 5 or 6 different varieties of bananas here and these ones are less sweet and mashed into a little patty and fried)
-fried dough that is slightly sweet, like a donut called mandazi
-chaps: thick chapati filled with some meat and then fried again....mmmm double fried
-kikomando (pronounced chicomando) which is chopped chapati with red beans mixed together
-other fried dough sweet treats that sort of resemble muffin-scones, but fried
-fried chicken or whole Tilapia, of course, served with chips
-and when in season, sauteed grasshoppers (ensennane)
But the king of the streets, the quintessential Ugandan street food is the rolex, called so because it is a rolled up chapati with an omelette inside. Though innocent before found guilty, it is probably the culprit of Guy's food poisoning both times. However compared to how much he eats the stuff, the odds are on his side, and well, its worth the risk. The rolex man mixes eggs with sliced tomatoes, cabbage, onions, salt and pepper and make a thin omelet on a griddle pan. The omelet is then married with a chapatti and rolled up like a burrito and served in a plastic bag.
In the late afternoons and evenings, the streets in Kamwokya where we work are lined with boys grilling meat. You can get a meatsicle, as we call it: a charcoal grilled skewer of salty gristle and beef cubes. You can also get decent, albeit scrawny and sometimes chewy, chicken breasts. Little sausages are very popular, either grilled or fried. All of the above come with chips and some cabbage of course.
In the morning, people take tea which can be "dry," meaning black or "milk tea" which is mostly milk and a bit of tea mixed together. Tea is accompanied by chapatti or a dry, corn-flour based, muffin-cake, or fried cassava sticks.
For most of this food, you need only to walk a few feet in any direction and you will find whatever you like for anything from 100 to 500 shillings (5-25 cents). People will set up a kiosk or booth under an umbrella and happily prepare your favorite treat all day.
My favorite type of food in Uganda are the fruits and vegetables. This place is so amazingly fertile, all you have to do is throw a few seeds in the ground and things grow like weeds. Almost every square inch of free land in the city ( not to mention the countryside) has something planted on it: bananas, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach....you name it. And the markets are amazing: massive avocados the size of a baby's head, cucumbers, egg plant, onions, various mangos, papayas, watermelons, pineapples, passion fruit, the list is endless. Fruit is sold as snack food as well. A pineapple can be peeled and quartered for you right there with a machete for 800 shillings (30 cents).
My very favorite new fruit is called jackfruit. Its about 2 times the size of a large watermelon with a spiny green rind. It grows on massive trees that grow like weeds in this country (and much of southeast Asia, I have heard.) When the fruit is ripe, people bring them to the street or market to sell, usually on the back of a bicycle and cut your choice of a piece on the spot. The tricky thing about jackfruit is that it has a very sticky sap inside that needs to be cleaned off your fingers or you knife or anything the inside touches with paraffin or something oil-based, which makes opening and cleaning them an art form. Once open, it is a yellow fruit with tear-shaped seed pouches that you tear out. The taste is a mix between banana and melon and it is sweet and unlike anything I have ever tasted. I eat a piece almost every day and even made a jackfruit cake the other day, much to my co-workers surprise. No one ever thought to make cake out of jackfruit before!
There is so much more to tell, stay tuned for our next food entry: things you eat that still move!