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Guide to Ugandan Cuisine : Knowing your matoke from your posha

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.

Ugandan food

Monday’s lunch (much more appetising than this photo would suggest) – rice, green pea stew, spinach and boiled potatoes.

Ugandan food

Tuesday’s lunch (that’s not blood, don’t worry!) – rice, beef, boiled potatoes, spinach and a random slice of pineapple.

Ugandan food

Pocha (the white stuff top right) – probably the most tasteless and nutritionally void food of all time but the rest of this meal was delicious 

Ugandan food

Thursday’s lunch (I only remembered to photograph it when I was half-way through!) – rice, meat, matoke, groundnut sauce (the purple stuff) and vegetable mush.

Friday´s meal – more green pea stew with spinach and rice

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:

t-shirt from Mish Mash

t-shirt from Mish Mash

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  • Reply Sophie

    Ugandan food is more diverse than what your portraying.

    Where is your cassava(boiled or fried),tilapia fish, Dodo, plantain,proper chicken or beef stew,chapatti,nyma choma(meat on stick) dry curried chicken, mandasie,fried cabbage,Salads(thinly sliced withal hint of lemon), yam, I can go on and on…

    There is staple foods and then depending on the area your in variations and other foods are added.

    Being born and raised in London I grew up preparing Ugandan (with Asian influences) dishes. I’m in Uganda now for a long holiday and I’ve eaten food from good cooks and bad cooks it’s just plain wrong to say what you’ve eaten was our cuisine.

    Safe travels and thanks for visiting Uganda.

    October 10, 2016 at 10:18 pm
    • Reply Caroline Menzies

      Thanks for your comments, Sophie! I’m sorry if you found my blog post one-sided. I did say that I was documenting what I ate during a week volunteering at an emergency care home so it’s by no means a reflection of Ugandan fine dining – but it is an accurate portrayal of what Ugandans in this area eat day-to-day, or at least at the NGO where I worked. I ate at various restaurants and with many Ugandan families during my 3 months living in this wonderful country and tried most of the dishes you describe – you’re absolutely right, Ugandan cuisine is diverse, just not particularly varied where I was working!

      I took my comments about poscha being used to bulk out meals from what my Ugandan colleagues told me – just as some countries use potatoes or rice as a starchy carbohydrate to bulk out meals. It really wasn’t meant to cause offence so I will edit my post to take into consideration your kind feedback. Thanks again for visiting and I really hope you don’t think my post was insulting to your culture. Don’t get me wrong, I love Uganda and had a lot of fun trying all the types of food on offer. Caroline x

      October 25, 2016 at 2:01 pm

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