Uganda may not be famous for it’s food, especially when the diet for many is a focus on avoiding hunger and not seeking great taste. The food is often starchy and bland, but there are some exceptions to the rule which can be found on the street in most villages. As a bonus, street food is often served in bags made from scrap printer paper. So you can read notes from a village meeting, a segment of some legal proceedings or even someone’s CV as you eat. What’s often even better are the stall names and slogans…
Chapati – A legacy of the many Indian immigrants who were present in Uganda before Idi Amin ordered them out of the country. The humble chapati is an East African staple and can be found along the street in almost every town. What makes them extra tasty is the fact that the grill plates they are cooked on don’t seem to get cleaned all that often. The dirtier the plate the tastier the chapati.
Rolex – The unique and undisputed champion of Ugandan street food. The Rolex (Roll Eggs, get it?) varies from region to region, though the most common version involves 2 or 3 eggs cooked into an omelette with cabbage, tomato, onion and a large pinch of salt. When the omelette is nearly cooked through, the chef sticks a chapati on top of it and cooks it a little more until they stick together. The whole thing is then flipped and rolled up into a cylindrical shape. In some regions they use two chapatis to sandwich the omelette, though this seems highly unnecessary.
Kikomando – Seen as a poor man’s food, kikomando is a chopped up chapati with stewed beans dripped over the top. Not the tastiest thing in the world but it is very filling. If you can only eat one cheap meal a day I can see why this would be it.
Irish with Egg – We only saw these for the first time on our third trip to Uganda, so either they aren’t too common or they are new. Potatoes are known as “Irish” in Uganda, and this is simply a large boiled potato with a whole boiled egg inside it. A Ugandan Scotch Egg if you like. The potato looked reasonably untouched, so how this was achieved outside of witchcraft we’ll never know. So, so heavy. Would go well with a tonne of hot chilli sauce.
Mandazi -Best described as a Ugandan donut without the hole. Lots of sugar and if you’re lucky some cinnamon. Comes in many shapes and sizes, and is great as long as it’s fresh straight from the frying oil. If you get an old one it is like eating a kitchen sponge full of dust.
Sumbusas (Samosas) – Another Indian legacy item which has remained very popular. Triangular pastries filled with vegetables and or meat. I’ve seen beef before, though the most common and the best are made from goat.
Muchomo – Barbecued meat on a stick. Goat, pork, chicken and rarely beef. Always a little risky if you have a weak stomach as the meat is never refrigerated… but if you can resist the amazing smell of goat meat cooking over smoky coals you are stronger than I.