So here I am talking about one of the most common foods in East Africa, some Southern African countries like Zimbabwe and other places. Ugali (or Sima in some parts of Kenya and Sadza in Zimbabwe) is hard to describe to someone who hasn’t seen or eaten it so for now let’s go with the “ever reliable” wikipedia description: “ugali is a dish of maize flour (cornmeal) cooked with water to a porridge- or dough-like consistency” (I did warn you it has to be seen to be understood!)
Ugali is normally made from flour, most commonly maize flour, but it can also be made from other different types of flour. The interesting thing about it is it is pretty much tasteless, as in you put neither salt nor sugar to season it so it comes out very bland. As a result it is usually eaten together with different side dishes like meat, vegetables, soup etc for that added flavour. Despite its tasteless nature, it still manages to “taste” awesome to some of us ugali lovers! I remember plenty of times as a kid mom would be taking too long preparing the side dishes and I’d start eating little bits of the hot ugali as I waited and it always tasted delicious!
Ugali is eaten in different ways but it’s always best eaten when still piping hot and using one’s hands (no knife/fork/spoon needed). You can eat it separately or communally as already explained when I talked about the Swahili Culture. To be frank, mom never liked us eating communally especially since everyone seemed to have their own personal meal time in our household hence I talk about communal style eating but I’ve only seen others eating that way (I guess am one of the ‘snobs’ I was referring to he he!) And I know I recently bragged about loving and knowing how to cook and always being in the kitchen but unfortunately ugali is one food whose preparation am yet to master! It’s always proved to be an impossible task for me despite everyone else assuring me otherwise.
Actually I laugh at my inability to cook ugali but the ladies in my family are not that amused because here’s a funny story, in some Tanzanian tribes’ cultures, in-laws would not take in a woman that cannot prepare ugali to feed at least (strong emphasis on the ‘at least’ part) a dozen people, let alone one that cannot prepare ugali at all! So if you are soon to marry that handsome Tanzanian man (aren’t they all?! lols), I hope for your sake you have got the technique down to a fine art, otherwise your happily ever after balloon may just be about to experience one huge reality pop! So here’s a tip for you, if you want to learn how to cook ugali, I’d say the best way is to watch someone else doing it, recipes won’t help you much in this case I’m afraid! (You’re always welcome to prove me wrong though!)