By Titus Kakembo
Strength, skill and consistent stirring for more than 60 minutes make it slimy, yummy and salty. The content gradually changes texture, colour, and aroma by the minute.
This is eshabwe, a delicacy savoured in western Uganda. It is a mixture of hot water, ghee, and salt, and often, smoked fish or meat is added to it.
Eshabwe goes well with millet bread, potatoes, raw carrots, steamed bananas, bread or chapati.
Determined to popularise traditional cuisines, the Uganda Chefs Association converged at Fairway Hotel in Kampala to train members on how to prepare this delicious meal.
The final recipe tastes like cheese, mayonnaise, or ice cream.
After sampling one spoon, an ocean of it is not enough to satisfy one.
Nutritionists say eshabwe can be prepared to suit vegetarians or health-conscious diners.
Traditionally, brides in Ankole are put on an eshabwe diet to get them glowing, beefy and tender to touch like the backside of a newborn baby.
The diet is believed to help in widening the hips of the brides, curving waistlines that are similar to an Ankole cow’s horns, developing a light complexion, and relaxing the brain.
As I sampled eshabwe at Fairway Hotel in Kampala, I took a walk in the gardens, only to catch someone I suspect to be a regular consumer of eshabwe, taking a selfie. I could not resist taking her photo.
She split her face into a smile. This was followed by lifting a leg midway. Then she cat-walked before running her fingers on her thighs.
Jean Byamugisha, executive director of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association, said eshabwe and luwombo, a traditional dish from Buganda consisting of meat cooked in banana leaves, are evidence Uganda is gifted by nature.
“Food and accommodation are what makes a trip worth writing home about,” said Byaruhanga. “Numbers of clients can shoot up because of the services in the dining. People consider how long it takes to be served. They also consider how the food gets to their table.”
Reagan Kawuki urged entrepreneurs to invest in kitchens and equip the chefs with the required tools. These include refrigerators, cookers, utensils, skills, and sufficient wages.
“We always have symposium for a day or two,” said Kawuki. “This is when we share experiences and ideas, and tip each other on how to perfect our trade.”
Kawuki urged chefs to master the stories behind the food which can fascinate diners and whet their appetites.
“For example, the luwombo is attributed to the reign of Kabaka Mwanga who made it a must-try for palace guests,” says John Sempebwa at Semagulu Museum in Mutundwe.
“Today a trip or a feast in Buganda is incomplete if one does not sample luwombo,” narrates Sempebwa.
“During kwanjula (traditional marriage), the ssenga watches over the groom to see if he digs his fingers in the whole chicken. If he gets where the gizzard is hidden, then the son-in-law is considered a product.”
“When he is done, he has to open the button of his tunic or he risks being served another.”
After sampling the luwombo and eshabwe demonstration products, I sat back to digest when a light-skinned client taking selfies in the garden caught my eye. I just could not help but wonder if she had sampled the local cuisine or gone to the gym to get her skin smooth and curve her body.