How to Eat Like a Local in Uganda, East Africa.
I would really like to taste the soul of Uganda Julie, I want to eat like a local in Kampala…! My friend Charles did not only want to eat like a local, he wanted to live like a local in Uganda for all of 10 days lol! I disabused him of the later pretty fast.
See its easier said than done for a foreigner I can tell you…
Did this guy know what he was asking? You see, Kampala, Uganda is in my soul, it is in my blood, yet even I would be very wary of eating like a typical local in Kampala…let alone live like one!
Allow me to tell you a wee bit about Kampala.
First read this, what you need to know before you visit Uganda. Okay…
Kampala is a city that seems to morph every blessed year. Its skyline has consistently changed over the past 20 years, in fact every blessed year!
If you have been away from Kampala for more than five months, on your return you will almost feel like a visitor to your own city.
Yet, unlike other East African Countries, Uganda does not rely heavily on tourism or even food imports! It is a land locked country yet endowed with fertile, green freshness everywhere you look. Never mind the Political situation.
By any African standards, Kampala is NOT a cheap destination. Trust me I have seen things change over the past 10+ years. Year on year and they dont seem to be getting better! And lets not talk about security, since I know European countries I wouldn’t visit, Or parts of USA I would not send my worst enemy! That’s a story for another day!
Today, we are focused on all things gastronomic….
[clickToTweet tweet=”Today, we are focused on all things gastronomic…. #FoodandDrink” quote=”Today, we are focused on all things gastronomic….”]
Whether you’re on an African Safari, staying with family/friends, at a hotel, or even renting an Airbnb, your food bill, Boda boda rides and special hires aka taxis, plus souvenirs will add up pretty fast.
Sure, you can skip the latter, and stick to the UGX 500/= – 1000 local boda or bike rides this is approx. $0.25-a-ride to get around. But today we are talking about eating like a local in Kampala.
And Kampala restaurants do not reflect the cost of living in this growing country!
Expect to pay more than $12 a plate for something as mundane as Chicken and Chips —and that’s at a casual city take away in Kampala. Imagine paying that for a child’s meal at a MacDonald’s… ☹ In a developing country that depends lots on foreign aid!
Meaning you could easily spend $360 or thereabouts on food for only 10 days in Kampala. So, I kinda get why Charles wanted to brave the local cuisine outside of his hotel, which will be the lovely Serene Suites as recommended by yours truly!
A secure gated hotel complex situated on Mutundwe Hill with Self-catering facilities in a beautiful setting… (Honestly they haven’t paid me to say this) lol.
We all know that where there’s a will, there’s a way, so you can eat cheap in Kampala and you can bet that it involves local food. Here are our Pkjulesworld tips for sniffing out the aromas outside of the pricey Kampala top end restaurants.
Track Down a Food Market or Nalongo’s Restaurant Entebbe Road
Am assuming you are on holiday or safari and thus can go where the winds blow you? Then head on to any of the local Food Markets.
Signage is next to MIA so ask around. These usually have a kind of cooked food section. More like an open air canteen with benches. Trust me you will need to have your charcoal tablets or a strong stomach as the surroundings are usually not exciting.
Read our article on your essential travel medical first aid. It is absolutely essential if you intend to eat like a local in Kampala or any African city
Anyhow, the locals are used to it. The seating is on benches, the portions are generous and the food is amazingly tasty for under $0.50 a plate. Including a variety of foods plus a bottle of soda or water.
By the way they can deliver to locations close to the market, so maybe you can find a nicer place to seat and send for your meal! Means having a savvy local with you on this!
Your platter could include matooke, cassava, sweet potato, rice, greens like dodo or spinach! With a meat curry or stew of goat, oxtail, beef, chicken, beans etc. You may be in luck and even have a Luwombo of meat or peanut. This is stew cooked in tender banana leaf. A local delicacy I highly recommend you try at least once.
You want to eat like a local Kampala resident, right?
I highly recommend YOU DON’T try any salads at all unless you want to get up close and personal with your bog house!
Pro Tip: Instead buy your fresh fruit and veg from a market. To cleanse them, place in a bowl of salted water for about 15 mins. Rinse thoroughly and enjoy whenever you need your Vitamin hit!
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Definitely Have a Rolex
Nope, I am not talking about a $1k plus arm adornment aka watch! I am talking about a Ugandan Rolex, others call it a Rolie.
To be honest this food was not even existent as a public offer circa 1999…Oops dating myself.
It hit the global interest after a CNN expose. A rollex came out need, by university students on a tight budget. All it is, is an egg omelette rolled in a Chapati, with whatever topping you want e.g. beans, salad meat. All rolled together like a tortilla wrap! In other words, it could be an omelette roll lol! 😊
A Rolex is really cheap, filling, Ugandan fast food at its best! And is found in any restaurant, market or take-away!
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Visit the Fish Market
If you love fish, absolutely head on to Gaba fish market on a weekend – it’s definitely worth a visit. There’s no denying the more laid-back, local flavour and ambiance!
This is located on the shores of Lake Victoria (Nalubaale as it is locally known). You will have the best tasting experience of fresh fish served with a side of cassava or plantain and salad. Add a bottle of chilled local beer and you are in heaven!
By the way the image below was at the Entebbe Boat Club. The fish as finger-licking Deliciouso. 😀 Thanks to our Brother-in-law Paul (you know who you are) Much love! 😉
I guarantee the sunset is magical with breath taking views of the lake and the islands. All this for about $6, a bargain if you ask me!
To get to Gaba you can take one of the Matatus from the crazy Kampala public Taxi Park, (As a foreigner you will stick out like a sore thumb and could be targeted by Pick pockets). So, watch out and learn how to protect yourself in this article about tourist scams.
Or better still, hire a special or a Taxi as we know it in the west. This could cost you anywhere between $10 – $12 about UGX 30k from the city centre. Will cost lots more if its further away from your destination!
[clickToTweet tweet=”An evening at the Entebbe Boat Club. The fish is fingerlickin Deliciouso. #EatLikealocal #traveltuesday” quote=”An evening at the Entebbe Boat Club. The fish is fingerlickin Deliciouso.”]
Liquid Lunch Anyone?
Okay the locals in Kampala are modern, young, health conscious, men and women and they love smoothies.
And to get some trusty liquid energy packed full of natural organic fruit and veg head to a Café Javas near you. Mind you, I have no doubt that their smoothies are packed full of sugar…not from fruit. BUT they are delicious…and your children will love the shakes!
You can have your breakfast here. They do truly excellent coffees, your nose will be assaulted by freshly baked pastries. You can order sarnies, wraps or full meals. And You get Free Wi-Fi… which is fast by Kampala standards and why you find Javas a hive of young trendy Ugandans! Their service is attentive and fast as well.
Also, many “Take-aways” as the locals call the fast food establishments; now offer smoothies too. Yet, I would apply my advice above about eating salads to these smoothies too.
Unless the take-away is in a trusted location OR you want a full stomach detox and cleanse…you know what I mean! 😊
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Love some Uptown ambiance?
Okay you must have a local meal in a great location, with the best local produce freshly sourced daily.
This establishment is owned by a lady that we love. A family friend. Yet this is not why I recommend Spectrum Restaurant slap bang in the city center by Christ the King Church!
Spectrum at Theatre La Bonita is a buffet style restaurant. In fact, in our opinion it is the best buffet in Kampala. They offer a wide variety of local Ugandan foods and Indian styled curries.
This upmarket restaurant occupies a sprawling first floor space, swanky ambience, lit by large chandelier lighting, several large aquariums and potted plants. You would think you walked into an Arabian tropical space. The chefs create a variety of fantastic local cuisines in a buffet that teases your palate. The BBQ chicken starter is unique.
Their freshly made juices are to die for. And you can also dine from a set menu.
We at Pkjulesworld highly recommend the salads, fruits and veg here.
At $15 a plate + drinks it’s not cheap, yet it is worth every penny.
If you are on a business trip, well put it on the credit card! Or if you are truly treating yourself, and not keeping an eye on the balance sheet, I say have your meals here every day! 😉 Reservations are recommended.
Mind you the Café La Bonita is a clean, great place to while away your lunch hour after all that walking around dusty Kampala. Order a chilled drink, to wash down that Sambusa, Pie or whatever is on offer.
Wanna Eat Like a Local in Kampala? Eat by the Roadside
To be honest I hesitated to add this, but hey-ho the locals eat this food, so why not you.
These are like what the Kenyans call Mama Ntiliyes. More or less roadside shacks with very inexpensive local grub. Usually BBQ venues.
You might like to have a local friend with a car here. For instance along Entebbe Road, there are a couple of worthwhile spots, for some of the best BBQ with conch salads. They start at $5 a pop but can easily fill you for an evening meal. Washed down with lots of beer!
Of course, there are some truly roadside shacks that are mobile with fish, esp. Nile perch aka mpuuta, chicken etc. they usually pop up in the evenings on busy junctions and do a roaring trade!
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Go Grocery Shopping
Supermarkets around here are a new trendy development, not unlike those in the U.K. If you’re self-catering, you are definitely better off buying produce, meats and fish from outdoor markets.
But if you truly are not happy doing the above head on to, likes of Quality Supermarket chains, which offer a prepared-foods section where you can pick up items like rotisserie chicken, ribs, and African-style mac-and-cheese pizzas for under $10. Add a six-pack of Bell beer or a $0.50 a bottle and you’re set for the night!
And for you who wants to Just eat, in Kampala The Lonely Planet magazine created a comprehensive list of restaurants in Kampala.
And one of our very own family meals in Kampala.
So do you reckon I gave Charles a great place to start when it comes to; How to eat like a local in Kampala city? How about you, having read the deets, would you taste the soul that is Kampala cuisine, or stick to the safer restaurant food? share your insights below!
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See, Do, and Be more!
Julie Syl Kalungi
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