From my experience in West Africa the main carb, or food in general, is either rice or some sort of boiled corn. In Southern Uganda it is matoke, a small banana like tuber. It is has more flavor than rice and really fills you up. It can be grilled, boiled, fried…. Eaten with peanut sauce, cooked with meat, served plain, served with rice… It is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The possibilities are endless. I am currently in the North of the country where there is not matoke and the agriculture and plants are more similar to West Africa but with much more variety in food and easier to farm as there is more rain and 2 harvest seasons in the ‘dry north’. But, as you can see it is plentiful.
Above is a market in the South, close to the trees which are everywhere, meaning matoke is easy to grow. One of those stalks is sold for less than 15,000 shillings here, or about 5 USD.
So from there they are sold to a middle man who brings them to places like Kampala where they are sold for about double the price.
Overall, the produce here is slightly cheaper than in West Africa, especially the bananas and pineapples. One kilo of bananas in Senegal was over a dollar at a banana plantation. Here I got all the fruit featured below for about 3 dollars USD.
Everyone always asks about the food so here goes. These are from my lunches at Oxfam, where a woman makes lunch everyday for the staff to come and purchase for 5,000 Uganda Shillings a plate, approximately $1.30. The lunch time lasts about 45 minutes and most of the staff sit and talk politics, football, relationships, etc… A few workers get a plate and bring it back to their desk to eat and keep working. I have teased them about being ‘American’ but am truly amazed by their hard work- very different from Mali where we had a 2 hour lunch, tea and nap break.
The standard matoke (steamed and mashed green bananas is a staple for all meals here. It is slightly sour but not too flavorful). Accompanied by peas, steamed pumpkin (delicious), rice and goat meat.
Starting from the top right going clockwise- posho/ugali (maize that is flavorless and pretty unappetizing), sweet potato and ground nut sauce (delicious and thicker than the West African equivalent), more matoke, and chicken. The avocado was separately cut by a coworker who shared it to add flavor to the meal and wanted it pictured as she said “Now it looks healthier”.
Beans, rice, meat, pumpkin and greens. There was matoke of course but I said no…
More Posho and matoke with sweet potato, groundnut sauce and chicken. I had to add some spice this time as it was getting pretty old.
There are many differences with West African cuisine, one of the largest being that there is no spicy food here. I was told that it is because when food is spicy it is fried and Ugandans are very health conscious so they dont like fried food. While people here are incredibly health conscious (there are gyms, saunas, health clubs all over) I dont think that is necessarily the reason although the food here not typically fried- more often it is boiled or steamed. Overall, there are more elements to the dishes here, even in villages, and there are far more options for foreign restaurants and food styles. A topic for another blog…