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The Weirdest Foods to Try in Uganda

Nsenene
A live grasshopper or nsenene before its wings and legs are removed. They will be then fried in their own fat.

Strange foods to try in Uganda.

Weird is weird and food is food. But when food is weird, you know the peculiar and rather particular characteristics of a country and its peoples have been brought to bear on any given menu. And thereby ensure that such foods aren’t lost in translation from preference to palate when you enter the spirit of a country. In Uganda, there are a variety of foods which occupy the stranger side of the menu.
Here are some of the strange foods from Uganda:

 

Mulokony / Cow Hooves

cow foot soup

Boiled cow hooves, also locally known as mulokony, or kigere. These are a delicacy with nutrients which are said to keep the spirit young as the soul ages. So it would behoove you, pun unintended, to take a bite of these hooves. Kigere is basically a tendon—a flexible but inelastic cord of strong fibrous collagen tissue attaching the cow’s muscle to its bone. It is cooked by boiling to the point when this tissue is tenderized to a soft, sticky and succulent savory meal which forms a soup so delicious that you’ll truly want MOO-re. There’s something about this salty, love-it-or-hate-it meal that turns a cow’s hoof into a reason to enjoy one’s lunch or kick up with dinner while watching your favourite film on Netflix late at night.

 

White Ants

Locally known as Enswa (and scientifically as Macrotermes bellicosus), White Ants are winged termites which belong to the culinary neck of your woods. They have the nutrient composition of proteins and fatty acids or fats. The fatty acids provided by white ants are largely unsaturated; they contain 56.7 per cent unsaturated fatty acids and also provide vitamins A and C. Besides the health benefits, white ants are caught using light when they swarm. Like moths to a flame, they gather around the light and are caught in plastic cups. Of course most escape but these rarely make it far as they will be pursued by birds of all types.
After harvesting enough, you fry them using their own body fat. And then, for the extra yum factor, you may add salt to the ants and happily eat them. There’s something about chewing white ants — it’s a delicate enough operation to require care but primal enough to untame your sense of adventure. Some locals eat them raw as they catch them but it is more common to eat them cooked or when mixed with other foods like peanut sauce.

 

Byenda / Intestines

It’s always tea time, but it is most pleasant to have a Byenda agenda. Byenda are the entrails or intestines of an animal (usually a cow or goat) used as food. It is commonplace to find them enjoyed with Matooke (a variety of starchy banana) in the mornings as part of a breakfast of champions called Katogo. Known to have the powers to cure hangovers, it ironically goes down faster than the first cup of tea on a Monday morning. Soft and sensual when cooked, its nutrients help build stamina and endurance. On top of that, it requires no taste checks and so it is precisely what the locals order.

 

Grasshoppers

Raw nsenene

    Raw grasshoppers after their legs and wings have been removed. They are then fried in their own body fat until crispy brown.

One should never jump to conclusions. However, if that jump is freighted by the leap in perception that concludes that grasshoppers taste good, then, jump away! Locusts used to ravage the vegetation in Africa for eons. And so God probably created their smaller relatives, grasshoppers, just to have an excuse to invent the calm after the storm. And what a calm it is. Locally known as Nsenene, Grasshoppers are a sure-fire out-of-the-wild, into-the frying pan tale of culinary wonder. After they have been fried, you may add salt and small pieces of fried onions to them in order to bring out the fishy taste of prawns. This taste will then leap to the top of your menu like Le-Prawn James. To be sure, these crunchy insects are like a deep-fried hug. Sweet and savory, they are sold on nearly every street corner in every town or city in Uganda when in season.

 

Kidneys

It takes two to tango, so tango with some Kidneys. Distinctly popular in Uganda, we kid (ney) you not, this is one of the best ways to enjoy a world of proteins without the fat that usually attends such colossal sums of amino acids. Kidneys contain plenty of B12, riboflavin and iron, as well as healthy amounts of B6, folate and niacin. Along with a calorie count of 116, fat at 3 g and protein at 20 g, kidneys are in the Champions League of how to eat well while eating healthy. Usually consumed in beef, lamb and pork form, if you’re are just making an acquaintance with this delicacy, we suggest trying beef kidneys, which have a less in-your-face flavor. They’re also the easiest and cheapest to prepare. The best kidneys are deep-red in color, unless you’re going for veal, which look tanner. To prepare them, wash them in cold water and then extract the outer membrane and slice them in half (if you don’t want a strong flavor, you can soak them in water for a few hours with some salt). After that, you can cook them as per your preference and then throw on that napkin for a culinary ride to paradise.

 

Fish Heads

When you visit any eatery in Uganda, a waiter or waitress of a sunny disposition will approach you with a broad smile. And, as you bask in the glow of their evident joy, you will be presented with a menu that expressly states that “Fresh Fish” is available. So, like any happy camper, you order for the fish. However, there’s a catch: do you want the tail, middle or head of the fish; you are asked. Shocked, you place down your menu and wonder whether this is a trick question. No, it is not. In Uganda, the fish head is a delicacy which is usually reserved for the head of the family. As in China where the fish brains are said to hold medicinal and psychological value, Ugandans view the fish head as loaded with the most protein and, when boiled or fried, most tender to the taste buds. Indeed, Uganda’s love of fish has come to a head, so to speak. And so, when in Uganda, we hope your sense of taste heads in this direction too.

 

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