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 15 reasons to eat your way through 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.
2) Jacket Potatoes
No plate of brochettes would be complete without a few potatoes to round out the meal. For less than US$0.50, you’ll get an enormous potato that’s skinned, cut in two, and served in any number of sauces, though ketchup, mayo, spicy Akabanga, or piri piri chili are most popular. Rwandans love potatoes, and besides the jacket variety, almost every eatery serves some other variation on them, with fries (chips) also being common.
Since we just mentioned it in the previous slide, let’s talk more about Akabanga. Aka-what, you ask? Akabanga, while technically not a food, is an excellent and very spicy chili oil produced only in Rwanda. The ubiquitous eyedrop-sized bottles are found on nearly every table at almost every eating establishment in the country. Comprised of an 80%/20% mix of oil and yellow chili pepper extract, Rwandans swear by it and it even has a loyal following amongst those who have visited Rwanda and fallen in love with it.
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.
8) 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.
Rwandans love their milk and milk-related products. Ikiviguto is a thick, fermented, sour milk/yoghurt concoction. Not quite liquid and not quite solid, its taste and consistency is acquired. However, Rwandans (and some foreigners) love the stuff and it’s loaded with probiotics (the good bacteria).
10) 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.
Sombe, which has the appearance of cooked spinach, is another ubiquitous dish, served at most buffet places and in homes around the country. This is about as green as it gets when it comes to green, leafy vegetables in Rwanda. The dish is made of chopped or mashed manioc/cassava leaves, sometimes stewed with other vegetables or a few chunks of meat for flavor. Sombe is also naturally very healthy.
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.
Matoke (cooked bananas) are absolutely central to the Rwandan food scene. Leave the city and you’ll see people carrying bushels of bananas on their heads, in carts, and loaded high on bicycles. They are usually steamed or stewed, and cooked in any number of tasty sauces. Sometimes grilled, they can be added to nearly any meal.
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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