Thursday, July 1, 2010


Before I came to Rwanda, one of the things I was most worried about was if I’d be able to eat spicy food on a regular basis. As with much of my pre-Peace Corps fretting, this was misplaced. Urusenda (oo-roo-send-ah) peppers are abundant here. (See: my urusenda poppers.)

Usually Rwandan food is prepared without urusenda; some form of the pepper is served on the side. In restaurants, you’ll typically be given a dish of homemeade hot sauce: spicy oil and mashed urusenda. Sometimes restaurants have the packaged version, called Akabanga. The mass-produced stuff has as much of a pop as the name, which means “little secret” in Kinyarwanda, although I find it to have more raw spice and less of a full flavor than the homemade kind. In private homes, you’re likely to be given either the spicy oil mash or a whole urusenda pepper, slightly cooked, which provides ample heat when dabbed several times onto the food on your plate.

The plural of urusenda is insenda, although this form is rarely used. Given how potent insenda are, I find it to be a perfect cognate, across language groups, with "incendiary."


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  2. Love to know all the peppers they used to make Akabanga? Are these just yellow Scott Bonnet and Pili-Pili (African yellow bird's eye )? Reply to


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