Uganda has a wide array of food (locally grown) that is thoroughly enjoyed by the locals. Some of the food in Uganda has been influenced by the Arabs, Asians and to a certain degree by English lifestyles over the years. The cuisine generally consists mainly of traditional cooking styles.
The food listed here is a mix of main dishes, vegetables, and street snacks. Desserts do not seem to be a thing on the local Ugandan menu.
1. Luwombo: This traditional dish is a favourite for so many. Luwombo is more of a cooking style as it is basically sauce steamed in banana leaves. The most common sauces cooked this way include chicken, beef, goat, and groundnuts.
2. Pilau: Seasoned rice (pilau masala spices) with beef chunks. It’s a favourite for many. In fact Idd celebrations in Uganda are incomplete without pilau.
3. Matooke: There are over 20 varieties of bananas in Uganda and matooke falls in the family of starchy banana, mainly known as cooking or green bananas. The bananas are harvested while they are green, carefully peeled and then cooked or steamed in banana leaves and often mashed or pounded into a meal.
4. Cassava: Cassava is one of the biggest sources of carbohydrates in Uganda. It can be cooked in a variety of ways; either fried or boiled or steamed.
5. Posho: Posho is another source of carbohydrates in the Ugandan diet. It is made up of finely ground white maize (corn) flour mixed with boiling water until it becomes solid. Best eaten with a side sauce or stew.
6. Kalo (Millet bread): It is cooked by adding water to the millet powder and mingling until it becomes solid. It has a higher protein content and heavier taste as compared to posho. It is dark brown or ‘maroonish’ in color. Best eaten with a side sauce or stew.
7. Sweet potatoes: In Africa, Uganda is the biggest producer of Sweet Potatoes and third in the world after china and India. The sweet potatoes come in a variety of colours both on the outside and inside. Sweet potatoes can either be boiled, steamed, roasted or deep fried.
8. Silver fish (mukene): These are very tiny but with an unmistakeable ‘fishy’ smell. ‘Mukene’ is known to boost immunity, and is recommended for children and pregnant women. It can be eaten on its own as stew or can be modified to different variations such as powder for porridge or sauce base added to other sauces like beans, vegetable or groundnut sauce.
9. Pumpkin: There are several types of pumpkins grown in Uganda that vary in size, shape and colour. Some of the breeds include Sweet Cream, Bala, Dulu, Onziga, Sunfish, Sugar Pie, and Anderina. Pumpkin in uganda is prepared by steaming and is usually enjoyed with a stew or sauce.
10. Fried emputta (nileperch): Is a fresh water fish that can grow really big. It’s usually served as a stew or as a fried delicacy.
11. Doodo, Nakati and bbuga: I’ve combined these together because they are locally referred to as ‘greens’. Doodo (scientifically known as Amaranthus Dubius) is a type of amaranth and is eaten for its leaves in many parts of Uganda. Nakati (scientifically referred to as Solanum macrocarpon or S. aethiopicum) Nakati is mainly eaten as leafy greens. Bbuga (scientifically referred to as Amaranthus Gracecizans). Americans call it pigweed. You might know this plant by its common American name: ‘pigweed’. It’s said to be a rich source of iron. Usually, many plates of food in uganda will come served with a side of greens!
12. Mushrooms: These are usually tiny and tend to spring up overnight. They can be cooked independently as a sauce. They can also be added to different stews like beef, chicken or peanut sauce.
13. Mlokony: This is basically a cow hoof. It can be pretty tasty and the locals believe the dish has curative and medicinal qualities.
14. Malewa: These are bamboo shoots that are dried up, cut into small pieces and cooked in ground nut sauce and served with ‘matooke’. They give the sauce an appetising smoky aroma. ‘Malewa’ can also be eaten raw or steamed and eaten as food.
15. Malakwang: Is a dish from the northern part of Uganda. It’s a mixture of gongura and groundnut sauce. This is usually eaten with matooke, sweet potatoes, casava or posho!
16. Nsenene: Grasshoppers would be the English name for this delicacy. They are pan-fried with onions and salt till they are crispy. It’s a seasonal delicacy as it comes with the rains round about November.
17. Nswa: Also known as white ants in English. These can be eaten while raw or pan-cooked after the wings have been removed. I prefer the cooked version! They are a good source of protein and fat. Different communities around Uganda have different methods of collecting the white ants. It’s also a seasonal delicacy but with the advancement in agriculture, some people tend to cultivate them or cleverly force them out of the ant hills.
18. Mandazi: Is a fried sweet East African street delicacy. Basic ingredients include water, yeast or baking powder, sugar and flour. After the dough is mixed, it’s split into portions and deep-fried!
19. Gonja: It’s a sweet plantain that’s eaten all year round. The most common ways gonja is prepared include boiling, deep-frying, steaming, and charcoal broiling (bbq style). It’s also available in grocery stores as a packaged snack referred to as gonja crisps.
20. Sim-sim balls: Is a popular sweet roadside snack that’s made with sim sim and melted sugar. First, the sim sim is roasted, then the sugar is melted and poured over the sim sim, mixed together and then rolled into balls and left to cool.
21. Samosas: Samosas are considered savory snacks by Ugandans. They are available in many local restaurants as well as on the streets. Samosas fall into two categories; the meaty type (minced beef) and the vegetarian type (peas or rice or irish potatoes). I have also had the opportunity of tasting fish samosas!
22(a). Chapati + This is a very popular sort of unleavened flat bread. It’s pan-fried using oil and can be eaten with stews or on its own. The interesting thing about chapati in Uganda is that it is served in various distinct forms that have developed their own identities i.e rolex, kikomando.
22(b). Rolex +: Is a variation of chapati. In this variation, eggs are fried with onions, tomatoes and cabbage. The fried egg is then rolled in a chapati. The local legend has it that it was initially referred to as ‘rolled eggs’ which easily morphed into rolex hence the name today.
22(c). Kikomando: Is simply a meal consisting of chopped chapati and beans. The name ‘kikomando’ was made famous by the ‘manual labourers’ and ‘boda boda’ drivers but has since stuck eventually become a dish of its own readily available at restaurants.
23. Kabalagala: Is a sweet roadside snack also popularly known as pancakes. Some people also refer to them as ‘kabs’. However, it’s important to note that they are nothing like the English pancakes. Kabalagala is a mixture of the small sweet bananas (locally known as ndizi) and cassava flour. When mixed together, the dough is rolled into the desired shape then deep-fried.
24. Eshabwe: This is a ghee dish from the Ankole region in western Uganda. It’s usually eaten with matooke, kalo (millet), sweet potatoes or posho.
25. Smoked fish: Is a personal favourite of mine especially when cooked with groundnut sauce. The fish is expertly smoked which makes it last longer but also enhances the taste. Smoked fish can either be cooked as a stew with seasoning or can be mixed with groundnut sauce.
26. Roasted or grilled maize: This can be prepared by either roasting (charcoal broiling) or by boiling it and is commonly available on the streets. The single maize grains can also be pan-fried and this snack variation is referred to ‘hard corn’.
27. Yams: Yams are tubers and grow well in wetlands. They can be eaten for breakfast or lunch or supper. They are usually steamed or boiled. Yams can be eaten plain or with stew.
28. Muchomo (street meat): Street meat can mean a wide range of meats in Uganda from goat to beef to lamb but never pork. You can however find pork ‘muchomo’ in specific bars or restaurants.
The list is endless and I couldn’t cram all the Ugandan food into a single blog post. If you are a Ugandan and haven’t tasted some of the food mentioned above, you really need to! If you aren’t a Ugandan and happen to visit, be sure to look out for these unique and scrumptious meals.
Changing the narrative. Telling my African story.