Rwanda has a huge variety of dishes, from the indigenous and traditional, to those that are inspired by Asian, Indian and Western cuisines. They are reason alone to visit this exciting and upcoming country. So without further ado, here are 10 things that will satisfy your appetite in Rwanda.
Yeah, many countries do brochettes, but Rwanda does them so well (like many other things on this list) you’ll be craving them all the time. Found at almost every eatery, brochettes are a cheap (US$1 on average) and protein-filled pick-me-up you can get any time of the day, and particularly useful after a night of drinking and dancing. Most places have beef, goat, and fish varieties with some onion or peppers separating each chunk of meat.
Just what are those oversized pillow-like pastries we see in display cases everywhere? They are mandazi, a slightly sweet, deep-fried dough ball. We recommend some type of topping with it, and the possibilities are endless: peanut butter, powdered sugar, jelly, honey, Nutella, cinnamon, or whatever else you want.
You may see blocks or chunks of this white, potato-ish substance at many of the African buffet joints you’ll undoubtedly frequent when you visit. Ugali is a thick, white starchy addition to many meals in East Africa. While not too tasty on its own, it absorbs the flavor of whatever it is served alongside, and is a filling supplement for millions. And why wouldn’t you want to try it when a plate costs just $3 or $4? Add some Akabanga kick the flavor into high gear!
This is definitely more of an acquired taste if you ask us, but hey, to each his/her own. These tiny little fish are usually cooked by the dozen, and typically deep fried. Normally served with rice, they’re naturally more common near bodies of water like Lake Kivu or Muhazi. They definitely have a fishy taste, so if that’s not for you, be warned!
This is more of a rural treat, as we’ve yet to see the masses chomping down in the cities where other types of delicious (and usually imported) treats are found. But head out to the provinces, and you’ll find kids chewing on white, fibrous stalks. It’s sugar cane, usually chewed until all the flavor is extracted and the pulp spit out.
6) G-Nut Sauce
Just what is a G-Nut you ask? Ground nuts of course! Or the common peanut, for those unfamiliar. Rwandans love their G-Nuts and the sauce is usually made with fresh nuts, shredded cabbage, and sometimes some other veggies thrown in. Similar in concept to Thai peanut sauce, it can be used to accompany meat, rice, bananas, or even eaten on its own.
7) Fresh Fish
Conveniently located on the shores of Lake Kivu, Rwanda is perfectly situated for excellent fresh fish –with Nile perch being the most popular. There are many ways to prepare it — grilled, or on brochettes is how most locals eat it. However, some restaurants deep fry it with garnishments inside, and serve it steaming hot with onions. Add some lime and bring a few friends (some of these fish are BIG), and you’ve got a recipe for a perfect evening.
Oh, chapati, how we love you. What could be better than fresh, hot, deep-fried flatbread? Not much. These delicious treats costing mere pennies are available in most neighborhoods and are also a national snack. The deluxe or special chapati is cooked with eggs, onions, and chips/fries, and is great for soaking up beer after a long night.
Mushrooms are a relatively new addition to the Rwandan diet, but an ever-growing one. Due to the ease of cultivation and the crop’s high yield, many rural Rwandans have started growing, selling, and consuming numerous varieties of mushrooms, which are slowly but surely making their way into many classic Rwandan dishes.
Oh, how we love sambusas! The African equivalent of the Indian samosa, sambusas come in three amazing varieties: meat, potato, and vegetable. Meat and onion sambusas can be found nearly everywhere, from brick-and-mortar stores, to street vendors who sell them from plastic buckets on the street. They also cost next to nothing, and just a few will satisfy your hunger. Rarer but just as delicious are the spicy potato and vegetable sambusas, normally filled with peas and carrots.
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This article was originally published October 17, 2014.