I spent five awe-inspiring weeks in Lugala, a village near the Capital (Kampala) of Uganda. Other than volunteering at the local hospital and finding adventure rafting the Nile River and bungee jumping, I met three girls who changed my life: Becky, Hilda, and Gladys, and they taught me the skill of cooking Ugandan dishes.

Thanks to two awesome Americans at the St. Nicholas’ Uganda Childrens’ Fund, I was introduced to these girls so I could selfishly get a feel of what life was like for them growing up in a Ugandan village as orphans. We spent many days together, and most of them were meal-time. I helped them purchase cooking necessities and in turn they fed me. Although, as anyone who has been to Uganda would know, even if I hadn’t offered to buy food, they would have begged me to eat- they love to feed! They are genuinely selfless people, and I am lucky to have met these girls.  We only ate meat once, on Christmas when we got a live chicken.  I want to share some of the dishes we ate and the ways they cooked.

cooking ugandan dishes“My auntie would beat you, you are so bad!” was the response to my chopping matooke skills. The knife was next given to this four year old who was “much better” than I. And he really was. 

Unlike the U.S. where I’m from, the entire non-school day for these girls is wake up, iron, market, cook, eat, chill for a little, then bed. Repeat. Most of their day is cooking over a small coal fire outside their front door. It takes all day for something to cook, so a late lunch is the ONE large meal of their day; they’ll have tea for dinner.

Typical Ugandan Dishes

cooking ugandan dishesevery day, every dish starts in the market. Eat Fresh! Pictured here is matooke, sort of a green banana (plantain), a daily staple. 

cooking ugandan dishes

cooking ugandan dishesafter chopping, they put the matooke inside leaves and tie it up. It’s sat on top of wooden blocks in a pan of water over coals to steam cook all day

cooking ugandan disheseveryone in the villages helps out either with cooking or babysitting

cooking ugandan dishesThe next most common food: irish potato. Almost everything from potato, matoke, rice, and cabbage is cooked the same way. Added is salt, water, tomato, and sometimes onion, carrot, or paprika

cooking ugandan dishesa cabbage dish that will be cooked the same way

cooking ugandan dishesYUM. rice and shredded cabbage was my second favorite dish. Somehow, even using the same ingredients daily, it always tasted great

cooking ugandan disheswe munched on fried grasshoppers while the food simmered

cooking ugandan dishesBecky is prepared ‘g nut sauce’- my FAVORITE!  (ground nut sauce) which is usually served over matoke but I liked it on literally everything. It’s made with water, salt, pepper, paprika, tomato and onion.

cooking ugandan dishes

cooking ugandan dishesfor something sweet just gnaw on some sugar cane :)