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.
“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
every day, every dish starts in the market. Eat Fresh! Pictured here is matooke, sort of a green banana (plantain), a daily staple.
after 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
everyone in the villages helps out either with cooking or babysitting
The 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
a cabbage dish that will be cooked the same way
YUM. rice and shredded cabbage was my second favorite dish. Somehow, even using the same ingredients daily, it always tasted great
we munched on fried grasshoppers while the food simmered
Becky 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.
for something sweet just gnaw on some sugar cane :)
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What a fantastic experience Rachel. I love the comment about the Aunty would beat you for being so bad at chopping and then the 4 year old being better! ha!
haah yeah, the kids are so independent. THis kid was lucky to have babysitters, so don’t!
Cooking with locals is THE best way of bonding and building relationships with locals. During my two years in Cambodia I learned so much more about the people and the country by cooking with locals in their villages then I ever could have by just reading Lonely Planet. And it is fun, because usually the kitchen is very different to your bog standard kitchen in Europe. :-)
I agree, I love cooking with local people!
Love this story and the pictures. Bonding through food… there is no better way!
You’re right on that!
That’s great to hear the food was so tasty! How did you enjoy the grasshoppers?
THey weren’t bad… crispy and the butter they were fried in made it taste like any fried food. It’s the legs and antennae you have to swallow that is a little but hard.
– food looks fantastic and extremely healthy – just like you would find in a Westside movie star health food vegie vegan restaurant.
BTW – you are one spunky chick (in a good way)
Yeah it’s great they at least get the protein from the peanuts since they rarely have meat!
I lived in Uganda for 6 months and this post brought me BACK lol. I went back and forth between Jinja and a village two hours north of Jinja, and oh how I remember living off of rice and cabbage! Did you try Katogo? That was my favorite, especially eaten with beans or fish if I was lucky. My lease favorite…Matooke and G’nut sauce. I know, but I never got into it!
Don’t know if I tried katogo or not, it doesn’t ring a bell. I didn’t like the motooke, but LOVE gnut sauce! yum! I’m glad this post brought you back to such an awesome place!
Looks yummy!! We have sugarcane here too, growing at the resort I work at. Every once in awhile our boat captain will get a hankering for it and go chop some down for us. I love it!
Sometimes I think it’s like chewing on tree bark haha but I love raw sugar!
I’ve heard that the food there was so oily, heavy and not that healthy, but after reading your post I can’t agree. It looks so yummy and delicious. I love to cook on weekends and so far I’ve been to Indonesian cooking classes which I really enjoyed!
HI dear! I’ve been reading up on your blog preparing for my trip to India. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled on your trip to Uganda! I am a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Uganda since June 2015. I agree rafting the Nile River is a must and you did it with the very best (NRE). My heart got all excited when I saw your picture from the balcony of the River Camp. That place is one of my all time favorite hostels and I’ve been fortunate to stay there many times. Thank you so much for sharing your experience here! Safe travels and keep blogging my friend. :)
Seems like ages ago I was in Uganda! I am glad you found these old posts and are enjoying them – I hope they are not too outdated hehe