Anytime I travel out of the country, the one thing I miss most is our wonderful food with all its nutrition and variety. It’s often said that we appreciate things when they’ve gone, so since returning from my last trip, I have purposed to appreciate our foods while I still had the opportunity.
To this end, I took a culinary journey with Chantal Uwamwezi, the manager of Classic Restaurant in Kanombe. She specialises in traditional Rwandan dishes, as they are not only healthy, but full of flavour and variety.
Rwandan food mainly consists of beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, potatoes, with sorghum being the most popular type of food.
Rwanda largely depends on agriculture for both subsistence and cash crops. A large percentage of the population live largely on subsistence farming.
Any surplus is sold at the local markets, which includes Irish potatoes, bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum, wheat, beans, and groundnuts.
Irish potatoes are largely grown in the Northern Province. For example, in Musanze, Rubavu and part of Gicumbi districts, while bananas are grown mainly in the eastern province: Nyagatare, Kirehe, Kayonga.
Beans and groundnuts are grown in all parts of the country, while as cassava, sweet potatoes traced in the southern province (Muhanga, and Nyanza).
Rice is grown from the western province, in Rusizi in Bugarama whereas sorghum grows well in Kirehe and Ngoma districts of the eastern province.
Most traditional foods can be prepared in a variety of ways. Cassava for example can be eaten fresh with beans, or dried and ground into flour, and made as the main dish accompanied by meat or fish.
In some parts of the country, families consume cassava accompanied by beans and milk. This dish is prepared in the most simplest of cooking: Beans are prepared first; they are then mixed with peeled cassava with salt and butter.
In today’s weight conscious society, many are opting for boiled foods. Food such as boiled cassava, yams, and pumpkins, beans, matooke, accompanied with salads, is becoming popular.
Claude Niyonkuru, a waiter at Smart Restaurant, in Remera, says “Many Rwandans enjoy roasted food dishes. Such will go for roasted goat’s meat, matooke, or Irish potatoes.”
In some major towns and cities, it’s a common culture to find charcoal banners, upon which the edibles are roasted. Most Rwandans will prefer a stick or two of roasted goat’s meat, than going for a plate of cooked food in a restaurant, depending on the financial capability, while others will order for fish.
Although, some Rwandans may prefer eating roasted food to the fried one, or other international dishes, which are served in most restaurants, in most homes, beans, cassava, Irish potatoes, matooke, are common. However, most homes have their own preference and common dishes, depending on their backgrounds.
For example, those who returned from Uganda prefer eating “Munyige” (mashed matooke), maize bread (Kawunga), and while other from Congo and Burundi usually eat cassava bread (Ubugali), with cassava leaves commonly known as “Isombe”.