Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Rwandan feast: Isambaza and Ubugali

It’s my favorite Rwandan meal: ubugali, which is cassava “bread” (really more like gelatinous sticky stuff) and isambaza, delicious little Kivu fish that you eat whole. Tonight in between World Cup matches (Go USA! It's gonna be a fun one here with ) I helped prepare it for dinner.

To make isambaza and isosi, you first fry the isambaza in oil – it only takes about 5 minutes. Next, pour off most of the oil and throw in onions and green pepper to sauté. Stir vigorously and add peeled, diced tomatoes. Cook over high heat, stirring continuously, and then add tomato paste and water. Then add the fried fish.

To make ubugali, Bring some water to a boil. Reserve some boiling water. Pour in the cassava flour (I have no idea what the ratio should be; Rwandans can just eyeball it) and pour the rest of the water on top. Stir vigourously.

So vigorously that you must remove the pot from the stove (you can stick the isambaza and isosi back on the fire so they’ll be served hot). Prop the pot between your feet and stir with all your strength until it gels and the lumps are mostly gone.

Then scoop the ubugali onto a serving plate and shape it into a round mound.

The serving dishes pictured here are typical; most people own some sort of decorative set that goes from large to small, all with lids to keep the heat in and the bugs out.

Ubugali is eaten with the hands, and middle class Rwandans are thankfully meticulous about washing their hands (using a bucket, pitcher and soap) before eating any sort of finger food. Here’s how it’s done: Pinch off some ubugali and roll it around in your fingers to shape it. Then scoop up some food and sauce as if it’s a spoon, assisting with your thumb.


  1. Sounds delicious! We are having Indian tonight. Go USA!

  2. go Ghana!

    ubugali is called "gozo" in Centrafrique - we didn't have those little fish there though, lucky you :-)


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