Adding local dishes  on the bucketlist

Popular in central Uganda, luwombo is an exciting culinary choice for the taste buds. PHOTO/ EDGAR R BATTE

What you need to know:

It is hard to point to one specific dish as the best there is. What is certain is that culture has preserved foods that can turn the local culinary into a tourism destination. Skilled cooks can create a tasty dishes with the wealth of fresh food.

It is in Uganda where we eat the rolex; not the fine Swiss luxurious global watch brand, but a culinary street snack, made of fried eggs rolled with fresh tomatoes, onions, cabbages into a chapatti.

Once you taste it, you might not turn back. If you want to keep it organic, a serving of luwombo, popular in central Uganda, is an exciting culinary choice for the taste buds. The flavour is savoury, thanks to the preparatory process of the sauce in specially chosen banana leaves that are steamed over fire.

The sauce- chicken, goat meat, groundnuts (peanut) which can be prepared solely or with mushrooms, dried fish or meat, will be wrapped in the banana leaves, with a choice of ingredients that include tomatoes, onion, curry powder and more.

When cooked and ready, an unwrapped luwombo gives an aroma that teases and draws one in to a mouthwatering offering that is irresistible.

From the northern part of Uganda, comes some of the healthiest meal options which leave a foodie or tourist spoiled for choice. The treasure of Uganda’s culinary arts and delights, lies in the abundance and variety from the 53 tribes that make up the people and culture.

Culinary tourism

It is hard to point to one specific food as the best there is. What is certain is that culture has preserved foods that should make Uganda a gastronomic tourism destination, where a skilled cook can create a whole lot of tasty dishes with the wealth of fresh food.

“The world has millions of foodies that would love to come and taste malewa, fish in ground nut and simsim paste sauce, atapa and dodo, omugoyo and many other foods. Authorities should start paying attention to the hotels and lodges to ensure they have a set and acceptable standard,” Mark Kaheru, a passionate chef, shares.

Culinary or food tourism and broadly gastronomy, goes beyond just going to eateries. It means visiting places, where food is the main tourism product for appreciation, learning the story behind that dish and the strong cultural force that defines people’s tradition.

“One of the things locals are most proud of, is the universal and healthy cuisine. We have something for every culture and dietary requirement. Most importantly, we are proud to have fresh and organic food,” Jean Byamugisha, the executive director of Uganda Hotel Owners’ Association (UHOA), observes.

The association she leads has a membership of over 500 hotel owners, where some of Uganda’s unique culinary offerings are served. This includes matooke, a staple made from steamed green bananas. It is often served mashed or cooked whole and accompanies various meat or vegetable dishes. Hotels and lodges serve luwombo as a traditional Ugandan dish, whose slow cooking process infuses the dish with flavour.

Byamugisha adds that the rolex’s popularity as a street food in Uganda, has found a special place on menus. Mchomo, grilled meat, often pork, goat or beef, seasoned with spices and served with vegetables, roasted matooke, Irish potatoes or rice.

 It is a favourite dish for celebrations and gatherings in Uganda.  “The number of people travelling to eat, is growing steadily. The food lifestyle, especially among the corporates and the youth has fostered various eateries on roads,” says Albert Kasozi, the executive director at the Buganda Heritage and Tourism Board.

Gastronomy lifestyle

Last month, Racheal Vumilia, Miss Tourism Heritage Rwenzori, held a special culinary event dubbed Rwenzori Heritage Food Experience to showcase the region’s best unique culinary offerings, including obundu -a traditional staple food in Kasese and Bundibugyo.

It is served with sombe, beef stew, fish stew, firinda, Kalibaba, ikikwara etc.  “Obundu  (cassava bread) is my favourite dish and it is made by mixing hot water with cassava flour, while Sombe is made from fresh cassava leaves.  One can choose to mix it with dry fish or meat plus our traditional yellow palm oil,”

Aisha Nagudi, the chief executive officer of the Miss Tourism Uganda franchise, says her tribe-Bagisu, have bamboo shoots locally known as malewa, uniquely prepared with roasted ground nuts.

Kasozi says luwombo is not just a meal, but rather an experience.  “From planting matooke, to the way you set up the kitchen, and the actual preparation of luwombo, it is not just food, but also our cultural norms,” he adds.

More than a cultural treat

In exploring culinary tourism as a product, Byamugisha says that the tourism industry needs to be at the forefront of marketing Uganda’s food offerings as more than a “cultural treat” but rather a tourist attraction.

Culinary tourism promotion highlights food festivals, cooking classes and culinary tours that showcase local dishes and cooking techniques. He believes a collaboration of tourism agencies, local chefs and food bloggers would go a long way in increasing visibility.

Experts say marketing traditional sauces, spices, and snacks, both locally and internationally, invitation of chefs, food enthusiasts and culinary students from other countries to experience Ugandan cuisine first-hand, are great options to explore. 

“Invest in culinary education, support local chefs to participate in culinary events and foster collaborations to showcase their talent and cuisine on a global stage,” Byamugisha suggests.

 He believes incorporating Ugandan dishes into hotel menus, promoting local ingredients and encouraging chefs to experiment with traditional recipes, are goods way to exploit culinary tourism.


Byamugisha says there is need to benchmark Thailand’s approach to street food markets, where tourists can sample a wide variety of dishes in vibrant and bustling environments. She says in some cities,  tourists are treated to farm-to-table dining experiences and participate in cooking classes using fresh, locally sourced ingredients.