Ugandan food can be challenging. I’m working at an NGO in Kampala and this week I decided to photograph my plate every day to give you an idea of exactly what I mean. I’m lucky enough to get a cooked meal every lunchtime at the babies home where I’m filming. A novel treat for someone more accustomed to grabbing a sushi box from Itsu or an artisan baguette from Pret! And my tolerance of Ugandan food seems to bring great pleasure to the cooks, who every day smile and nod in approval when I bring my empty plate back to the kitchen.
Most dishes seems to include Posho or Matoke – both are a staple in the Ugandan diet but certainly take some getting used to. Posho, is a dish of maize flour mixed with water and cook to a thick, dough-like consistency. I’m told by Ugandans that it’s nutritionally void but used to bulk out meals cheaply as us Brits would use chips or boiled spuds I guess. I tend to disguise mine beneath groundnut sauce (a pink-purple thick, smoothie-like sauce not dissimilar from satay).
Another popular food, and far more palatable, is matoke. Matoke is steamed green bananas but although it sounds like it should taste like a healthy alternative to fried plantain, it’s more comparable to mashed potato. I love watching the process of its preparation though – Rose, pictured, quickly peals a mountain of matoke each morning (well, we do have 25 little mouths to feed here as well as 54 adult ones!) then carefully parcels up the peeled matoke in a bed of banana leaves to be steamed until soft and mashable. The result? A starchy, gloopy texture which sticks to the mouth cavity but fills you up for the rest of the day. I think it’s an acquired taste because I’m slowly but surely starting to quite enjoy it.
But when home-cooked Ugandan food gets too much, a ‘Rolex’ is the way forward. I delighted my friends recently by telling them I bought a Rolex for 36p (1500 Ugandan shilling). They were less keen for me to bring them one home to England when I clarified that a Rolex is in fact an omelette wrapped in a chapatti. So I might not be buying them a Rolex but this t-shirt is definitely on my souvenir hit-list: