Matoke, posho, and more…

If you’re anything like me, there’s almost nothing more exciting about traveling to a new country than sampling new foods. Having several friends that had lived and visited Uganda before, I was intrigued by this mysterious “gnut” sauce and form of banana mash, “matoke.” So, this blog post is all about… FOOD! Enjoy, and, I hope that I make you hungry enough to want to visit Uganda some day.

Below is my first meal in Kampala at the hotel we were staying at. The breakfast buffet included instant coffee, locally-made tea (with milk, not water), hot chocolate, orange and passion fruit juices, fresh fruit (banana, watermelon, and pineapple), bread/butter/jam, potatoes, roasted chicken, and beans. After having traveled for so long, we certainly welcomed this large feast. But, we soon realized that every meal is just as large and full of carb-filled deliciousness…

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During our first lunch at an ACODEV-staff favorite in Kampala called “Subway” (stealing only the name/logo but not menu of the US chain), we ordered “all foods” at the suggestion of our colleagues. In the image below, I’ll walk you through what some of the most common local foods in Uganda are. Keeping in mind, these staples vary depending on the region you may find yourself in. Some that require no explanation are white rice, yam, greens, sweet potato (purple!), pumpkin, and chapati bread (like the Indian food).

  • matoke – mashed plantain, tastes very bland and is one of the staple foods (large yellow pile on right)
  • cassava – a white, starchy, root vegetable  (small white pile on furthest top left)
  • posho – white, fluffy, maize flour, similar to very dense grits (barely visible, under the rice)
  • gnut sauce – made from a nut and tastes like a thick peanut sauce; either eaten alone as a side, as a sauce to cover anything, or the base of a stew; you can also buy the nuts at the market and eat them salted as a snack (in the bowl)

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Other favorites are:

  • rolex – shortened from “rolled eggs,” basically an omelette rolled up in chapati, sometimes with vegetables like peppers or onions cooked in the eggs
  • mondazi – a slightly sweetened fried dough, sort of like a donut, comes in various shapes and sizes
  • kalo –  made of millet flour, tastes slightly similar to posho but is much darker in color
  • samosas – exactly like in Indian cuisine, usually made with vegetables but sometimes with goat or beef
  • pancakes – a small, flat, circular snack, served hot, tastes like a dense, slightly sweetened banana pancake

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Settling in to a routine in Kasese, we eat breakfast at home which usually consists of some combination of tea/coffee, toast, peanut butter, jam, bananas, mangoes, or oats. For lunch, we either take the ACODEV van into town with the staff for local food or make something at home. Since the meals are so heavy, I imagine we’ll eat at home more often than not so as to avoid an afternoon food-induced coma. For dinner, we have been cooking most nights at home. Below is a sampling of our culinary delights…

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It would be hard not to also mention a wonderful welcome party that our organization held for us the first Friday that we arrived. It was our first taste of what friendly, Ugandan hospitality is! We first spent a few hours preparing the meal which consisted of everything from chopping vegetables to slaughtering a goat. Here are some photos of the evening…

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For the moment, there are some dishes that I enjoy more than others. Some of my favorites are: all the fresh fruit (especially mango), fresh avocado, sweet potatoes, yams, beans, chapatti, gonga, samosas, and gnut sauce (which I love so much that I could eat it as a soup!). I admit that I need to work on enjoying matoke and kalo a bit, but I do have a whole year!

To sum it up, there are a few things I have learned about bananas:

  • Thank goodness I like bananas! They are everywhere.
  • There are more types of bananas than I ever could have imagined. At the moment, I feel a bit lost at the market and am thankful for my cofellows for not allowing me to buy the “wrong” bananas for various purposes (snacking, cooking, etc.).
  • Lesson learned the hard way: don’t buy fresh bananas at the market and store them in the same backpack as your laptop, otherwise your USB port might eat them. Though no real harm done, I never knew an HP could transform into an easy bake oven until I discovered where the scent of banana pancakes was coming from! 🙂

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I hope you have enjoyed this culinary tour of Uganda so far! I am sure there are many other treats that I will come to explore and love throughout the year…

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