I have to start by saying, and no offense to anyone, for me the local food here in Uganda is not great…There I said it! Yes, some is fine, some is tasty, some is even delicious – but on a whole, pretty meh. There is an old Ugandan proverb that says That the person who has not traveled widely thinks his mother is the best cook. But I have traveled. and I have tasted everything I could get my hands on, and no, sorry Uganda, no one comes here for the food. Once living here long enough, yes, I can appreciate it, I can enjoy a good Luwombo (Chicken steamed in banana leaves) or a nice Pilau (Rice cooked with meat or chicken mixed with Indian spices) but at the end of the day, no one comes here for the food. The music, the safaris, the clubbing, the international restaurants, the interesting heritage, intriguing culture, the beautiful hiking and many many many more things yes, but not for the Matoke (local plantain, normally mashed but can also be cooked whole in tomato sauce). And again, this is me.
Now having offended everyone, let’s continue. So, what’s to eat?
Almost every local restaurant in the central region at least, but in most of the country too, will serve the same thing; Food and Soup. When we say food here we do not mean “any nourishing substance that is eaten” we mean carbs. We walk in to the joint and well get a plate full of carbs, and when I say full, I mean full. A mountain of Matoke (Plantain), rice, sweet potato, Irish potato (yellow potatoes), posho (maize flour and water cooked together to create a dense cloud), and if your lucky a piece of Chapati (flat bread, usually fried adopted from Indian cuisine). The food may vary but almost always you will get it with a piece of steamed pumpkin, some fresh avocado and maybe a nice Kachumbali salad (tomatoes, onions, green pepper. Yum!). But the food is a given, no one cares about the food, the big star of every lunch here is the soup. What sauce will you pour over all this food? That will affect the taste and normally dictate the price of the whole plate. Most common options are: Beef, Chicken, Fish or the vegetarian option: big bowl of hot bean stew. The meat soup has only a few small pieces of meat (which ever one you will choose) in a huge bowl of the soup it is cooked in. That is how it is, you can ask for some more meat but you will have to pay more. The meat is normally very chewy so take small bites (!) you will get used to it. You pour the soup on the food and dig in. All restaurants, everywhere, every day for lunch.
The prices will vary from 3,000 ugx at the cheap spots to 20,000 at the high-end places. There will not always be a menu but you can assume that in the simple restaurants it should not cost more than 6,000 ugx. Because the prices are so affordable everyone eats lunch out from the boda-boda drivers on the street to the lawyers in the fancy offices. People in general do not bring food from home to work or school they either go to the local restaurants or bars or have their food delivered by lovely hard-working waitresses who run around town delivering covered plates of food.
It’ll always be the same. Food, soup and maybe a chap (chapati). Not the best lunch in the world, but very warm, filing, tasty, normally served with a smile and enjoyable (make sure to get a toothpick at the end, or your day is Ruined!).
Nkwagaliza Okulya Kulungi!