Hummingbird: The menu is the treat 

Some of Hummingbird Restaurant’s pallatable dishes. PHOTO | A. KIRONDE

What you need to know:

  • Hummingbird that incorporates different genres of food from the area, one notices that they all of them tend to share a common denominator of rice, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame seeds, writes A. Kadumukasa Kironde II.

During the 90’s and until fairly recently, when someone had a hankering for Oriental food in Kampala that usually meant sweet and sour chicken, hot and sour soup, fried rice or other well-known and much loved Ugandan Chinese food. 

Interestingly the two most renowned eateries for this fabled cuisine were Fang Fang Chinese Restaurant and Shanghai Restaurant Kampala. Both held sway for close to three decades plus and there was not much love lost between the two owners. 

Sadly, in the last couple of years both places closed shop and surely it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

Nature abhors a vacuum and a year ago, Hummingbird Restaurant saw an opportunity to fill the gap albeit with a more versatile and eclectic menu that a few years ago would have been labeled as being ‘Oriental.”  

However, that term has become somewhat outdated and pejorative and has been replaced almost entirely by the phrase “Asian food,’ which must not be confused with “Asian fusion” or “Pan Asian cuisine.”   

The food served at Hummingbird Restaurant includes Nepalese, Thai, Chinese, Western as well as South and North Indian.

If one were to ask most Ugandans to give a description of Oriental Cuisine, there is no doubt in my mind that the majority would think of dishes from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand because in all probability these are the Asian food with which they are most familiar. 

Technically, however Oriental dishes would be from the Orient covering the area of East Asia that would naturally take in China, Japan, North and South Korea, Taiwan, Tibet and Mongolia.

In the West the word “Oriental” has become offensive due to the fact it was frequently used in a pejorative manner to denigrate Asian people, both because they looked different and more often and not were relegated to subservient roles in the pecking order of the workforce.

Looking at the Hummingbird that incorporates different genres of food from the area, one notices that they all of them tend to share a common denominator of rice, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame seeds, yogurt, onions, tofu etc.

A good example would be the Afghani chicken that is cooked in a creamy sauce with spices and then charcoal grilled.

This particular cuisine is influenced by a myriad of cultures like Persian, Indian, Mongolian and the Mediterranean.

Tender and succulent we greatly enjoyed it and comes highly recommended. Space does not permit to give a just summary on the entire menu of Hummingbird Restaurant which are all to my liking and fancy.

Notwithstanding, no write up on Hummingbird would be complete without mentioning the taste of Thai. 

This alone is one that will always leave me agog with the unforgettable characteristics of the citrus limes spiked with clean pine nuts, fresh cilantro, coconut milk, garlic, ginger and chilies.

Not to mention the fresh sweet sour taste that is typically Thai and derived from tangy lime or tamarind and palm sugar with fish sauce providing the main savory flavouring.

As for rice, I would be remiss in not mentioning the important part it plays in their diet.

Besides being the foundation of many one course dishes, rice also plays a vital supporting role for other dishes and last but not least, when eating Thai food is that dishes are created specifically to be mixed and eaten with rice.

Thai curries especially come to mind as they can be wickedly hot. Unlike Indian curries, as you will discover at Hummingbird, the chefs have mastered the art of cooking Thai curries with the secret being to cook them quickly and skillfully.

At the same time bear in mind that they do not have the rich heaviness that comes from long and slow simmering. Coconut milk is added to soften the pungency of the spices and combines flavours to give a sublime and sophisticated subtlety to the finished product.