Food in Uganda is readily available with the country being one of the leading agricultural producers in Africa. The country has got a variety of foods including traditional staple foods, delicacies, fast foods and street foods.
This is the national staple food and many regions grow bananas. Matooke is mostly grown in central and western Uganda. There are different ways matooke is prepared. For instance, Matooke is peeled and wrapped in banana leaves,boiled then squeezed to form golden yellow mashed.
It can be cooked unpeeled by steaming in green leaves or roasting on fire. Unpeeled roasted matooke is accompanied by Muchomo (Roasted meat). An unpeeled steamed matooke is usually prepared when there are rituals to be performed among the clans of Buganda, especially at the birth of twins (Okumala Abalongo).
In addition matooke can be cooked with ground nuts, offals and beans to form Katogo which acts as breakfast in most homesteads. In Buganda, girls are taught how to peel matooke when they are still young since it symbolizes that when she gets married she will be able to cook for her husband.
Another banana that is consumed a lot is Gonja (plantain cultivars) which can be roasted, cooked and fried. This acts as deserts on other foods or can be taken during breakfast with tea. Ripen bananas are used to make banana juice and local wine ( Uganda waragi). Banana brewing experience can be witnessed on a community walk in Bigodi village near Kibaale forest and Buhoma in Bwindi impenetrable national parks.
The millet bread is a combination of millet or sorghum with cassava flour mingled in the boiling water until it stiffens and becomes soft and solid. Karo is a staple food among Banyankole, Batooro in western Uganda, Itesots and Karamajong in the northeast, Alurs and Lugbara in west Nile.
The mixture of flour differs as among these tribes add less or much portion of cassava flour . For instance, tribes in the east and north east call it Atapa which is prepared with much cassava flour and less millet, Bakonjo like Obundwe as they just mingle cassava only as well as West Nile . The Banyankole and Batooro enjoy mingling Karo with millet and less cassava flour.
This is a staple food for Acholis and Langis living in northern Uganda originally. Malakwanga is a mixture of sour vegetables and ground nuts and at times simsim seeds is also added. The sauce is served with sweet potatoes and millet bread (Karo).
Malewa is a popular sauce for the Bamasaba in Eastern Uganda. Malewa is prepared from bamboo shoots which are harvested, cut into pieces and sundried. The pieces are mixed with ground nuts and boiled until it is ready and it can be served with matooke and posho. Malewa can be found in the communities around Mt. Elgon National Park.
This is the traditional meal for Bahima who are known for keeping the Ankole -Watusi long horned cows living in the western part of Uganda. Eshabwe is prepared by using mature ghee that is mixed with cold boiled water and rock salt with other ingredients like onions.
The sauce is not put on fire since it has to be eaten in its natural form and served with Karo, matooke, meat and cassava. Eshabwe is prepared in many restaurants including Igongo in Mbarara city however, those intending to learn how Ishabwe is made can visit Nshenyi cultural village in Ntungamo.
Uganda is known for its large fresh water bodies, rivers and swamps that act as habitats for over 20 types of fish. Fish is caught and prepared when it is still fresh. If it’s not going to be consumed immediately, fish can be preserved by sun drying, smoking, frying and salting for further consumption.
The Bankonjo in western Uganda prepare Sombe which is a mixture of pounded cassava leaves, salt and smoked fish. Dried fish can be prepared in groundnut sauce. Uganda lakes produce small fish like silverfish (mukene) and sprat fish (nkejje) which are highly nutritious and treates many diseases among children. Lake Bunyonyi in southwestern Uganda offers crayfish which is a delicacy to the locals and tourists that visit the place.
Posho is locally known as “Kawunga”in Uganda, and popular as Ugali in East Africa . It is prepared by mixing corn flour in boiling water and mingled until it is firm and solid. It can be steamed in banana leaves to give it a good aroma. This food is similar to Zadza in South Africa, Polenta dish in Italy and Grits in South America. It can be served with soup sauce, beans, cabbage and green vegetables.
Luwombo is a traditional dish of Baganda that was invented by the chef of Kabaka Mwanga who was the 31st kabaka of Buganda from 1884 to 1888. The dish was specifically for the royal family however, it is enjoyed by everyone since even restaurants prepare it. Luwombo is part and parcel of Baganda ceremonies like weddings,introductions and child naming.
On other special days like Christmas, Ei-di, meetings and hosting visitors at home luwombo is included on the menu. Luwombo can be prepared with different sauces like chicken,meat, goat’s meat, ground nuts with smoked fish or mushroom. The chosen sauce is mixed with all the spices like onions, cardamon, tomatoes and wrapped in the smoked banana leaf with no holes and tied at the end.
Cassava is mostly enjoyed by the people in eastern and northern uganda. It can be roasted, steamed, sun dried to make cassava flour for karo or Atapa and fried to make cassava chips.
Sweet potatoes that are prepared in different ways for example, can be steamed when peeled or unpeeled, roasted or fried however other tribes mix it with small portions of cassava and beans to make Mugyo. The dish can be served with beans, meat,fish and ground nuts.
Irish potatoes are usually used when preparing luwombo, some deep fry them to get chips which are sold on road stalls. It can also be cooked when mixed with offals, meat, beans and ground nuts. Sweet and irish potatoes are staple food in south west Uganda by Bakiga and Bafumbira since they stay in hilly areas and their soils don’t support the growth of bananas.
Yams are steamed and served with tea. Many Ugandan homes treat tuber foods as deserts to the main meal.
Due to rich soils, Uganda supports the growth of a variety of vegetables in different areas. These include; egg plants, nakati, dodo (amaranthus dubius),cabbage, ensuga and ejjobyo which supplement the main meal. At times these are added in sauce like beans and ground nuts.
Ugandan street foods
Street foods in Uganda have become popular among locals and travelers. The most popular foods include; Rolex, Muchomo, Gonja, chapatis, mandazi, roasted ground nuts, samosas and roasted simsim.
Rolex is a roll of chapati wrapped with eggs, onions, tomatoes, cabbages and green paper. It can be bought from roadside market stalls like Mengo in Kampala city, restaurants and hotels. Those intending to enjoy a variety can attend the annual Rolex festival held at Uganda national museum in Kampala city.
Delicacy foods in Uganda
Nsenene is a Luganda name for grasshoppers (katydids) which are seasonal plant-eating orthopterous insects believed to have originated in Uganda. They engage in seasonal migratory flights and are available in Uganda during the rainy seasons between November, April, and May. People originally caught them using hands, however, nowadays they use torch light with white iron sheets to catch them in bulk for commercial purposes.
During this period grasshoppers are sold in stores, markets and road stalls. The grasshoppers can be prepared by plucking off the wings and legs then washed and salted. They are fried with their own oil, one can add onions so as to give it a good aroma. However they can be sundried or boiled and consumed on their own or as accompaniments to other dishes. This dish is considered a taboo among the Nilo hamites. However, due to intermarriages people have adapted to the foods of different regions rather than their own traditional meals.