I could murder a brochette

I have tried, I really have, but whichever way you look at it – and I’ve peered at this from the oddest of angles – no two ways about it, Rwanda is a failed culinary state.

What is Rwandan food? Well, beyond maize (harvested too late, always too tough), cassava (…), beans (great, but every day?), cooked bananas (not for me) and chips (sick of the sight of them by now), beyond all of these staples, what do we have? We have the brochette. The brochette, as far as I can tell, is the pinnacle of Rwandan cuisine.

Don’t get me wrong, brochette’s are good. I can quite happily devour a couple of charcoal grilled Tilapia numbers (like those two pictured above from Cercle Sportif de Kigali) and I’m partial to the goaty and beefy versions (even if they are too tough 50% of the time). I’m even happier dabbing them into a saucer full of “volcano in your mouth” pili-pili. The problem is if, like me, you’re looking for a Rwandan culinary experience to remember, you just started and finished it in one sitting (ordinarily with a complimentary 1 hour + wait).

The brochette, as unoriginal and unimaginative as it is, is Rwanda’s sole contribution to the dictionary definition of cuisine. Wikipedia, much like me, struggles to say anything further on the matter. And sadly, unlike Ruairi, I’m not inspired enough to wax poetic for the Rwandan brochette.

Rwanda is reportedly food secure, and no doubt a culinary culture will develop in time. But for now, I need some help. Are you in Rwanda? What am I missing out on? What’s good, when is it good and where is it good? Or is this my lot?

Photo taken from the Kigali Wire Flickr account.

22 Responses to “I could murder a brochette”

  1. There are a some really good Chinese and Indian restaurants that do great Rwandan food. I mean, food in Rwanda.

  2. I believe you’ve covered the local cuisine in its entirety. As for other opportunities, I’m kindof partial to the pizza at Cactus. But that’s because Congo’s culinary scene makes Rwanda’s look like Paris. Or at least Berlin.

  3. Dan Brose says:

    do as the other Banyarwanda and come to Bujumbura where the culinary scene is strong and vibrant! (and no, you’re not missing anything, the brochette is indeed the pinnacle of Rwanda’s gastro-epicurean delights.)

  4. Andy says:

    The Chineese (sic) restaurant in Butare (turn right off the Kigali road opposite the Gikongoro junction, and head past the church) does an amazing sizzling beef. The chicken IN a pineapple is quite spectacular as well. In fact, probably easier to ask Ruairi, we were in there enough together.

    Otherwise, throw in endless cabbage and you have summed up the entire culinary achievements of Rwanda. I do miss my brochettes though.

    Sindashaka zingalo!

  5. kigaliwire says:

    Chris, to repeat you on Twitter… Apparently, whoever wrote “The Joy of Rwandan Cooking.” Mash maize meal. Boil in pot. Stir and serve. Repeat till death.

    Texas, I hear the food is better in Goma. At least that’s what a Congolese chap told me.

    Dan, both Chris and my missus have almost raved about the food in Bujumbura. I look forward to trying it

    I’ve tried two Chines places in Kigali. Both distinctly below average – we can do better at home. Restaurants staffed by Filipinos, from what I am told. Not quite sure how the Chinese/Korean/Japanese expat contingent cope here to be honest. Hard enough for me :(

  6. Nalynat says:

    okay I have a few suggestions: you can go to African Bite it located in Kimihurura, or chez John in Kiyovu. but by far my favorite spot is called “muka box” meaning: ” in the tiny box” literally , but I think they refered to the way the cook their meat (grilled and then boiled for hours with veggies in a tightly sealed tin box until the meat just falls of the bones: yummy!!!) and it is served with sweet potatoes and a thick peanut sauce. the place is in kicukiro just past the main Round-a-bout by Sonatube (I hope you are familliar with these areas) as if you were heading to the airport the place is on the right hand side of the road. and there is a “Godyear” sign in front of the restaurant. the neighborhood is often referred to as “kuri goodyari”. you wont regret it!

  7. Nalynat says:

    I must add that the place is a hole in the wall u blink once and you may miss, it’s sketchy looking but dont judge the book by its cover beleive me! needless to say that Service sucks. so don’t dress up for it!. And have tried Chocolat? it is also in kiyovu,…it’s not really authentic local cuisine, more moroccan than Rwandan but it’s good nonetheless.

  8. kigaliwire says:

    Muka box sounds right up my street Nalynat. Thank you very much. I will definitely seek this out and blog it, supposing I survive the experience. I do have form in this area though – see my previous life:

    http://www.noodlepie.com/2006/01/16_noodles.html

  9. Anon says:

    All very sad. People purport to speak authoritatively on Rwanda but seem completely unfamiliar with its food. No mention for its excellent ibiryi, much harder than elsewhere, sombe – cassava leaves? imboga – green vegetables?. ground nut sauce? ibijumba – sweet potatoes? cabbage cooked with tomatoes and garlic?

    You have the chance to try some variations, the history of Rwanda means that returnees have brought the cuisine of other countries with them to go with “Rwandan cooking”. The problem is probably twofold. First do any bloggers eat in the homes of Rwandans? Second, the vegetables are fresh but what is the quality of the cooking? Ever eat outside the towns? Food is simple but tasty with fresh organic ingedients. Of course in town you have the better off who grew up without learning to cook at all and employed staff who are hired on the basis of whether they are hard working and honest rather than on ability in the kitchen.

    Like the provision of all services it will improve but it needs time.

  10. sbangel says:

    just eat at Haandi in Kigali once every week or two. it’s a bit expensive but will satisfy any cravings you have for flavor and spice. best Indian food I’ve ever had (they have ones in Nairobi and Kampala too…haven’t tried the Nairobi branch but the Kampala version is just as awesome)

  11. sbr says:

    it’s all about trying and finding – and merging into the local scene. skip these fancy things in kimihurura or kiovu.
    just to give an example: in a tiny, dusty street deep into nyamirambo there is a tiny cute shop where the owners sell local (!) fantastic (!) espresso-type (!) strong black coffee. ever heard of? guess not… because it hasn’t reached the expats world and due to its location and appearance probably never will… (besides espresso-style coffee you will get nyamirambos best chapati there)

  12. Miquel says:

    Hate to break it to you, but it’s a pinnacle of cuisine in West Africa as well. At least have have poulet in various incarnations as well, although one gets burned out on “poulet everyday”.

  13. Gil says:

    @nalynat

    Ka box is Ugandan cuisine. Its a variation of the Buganda luwombo. The good year place is also Ugandan owned.

  14. ginno says:

    @all

    Actually there is no Rwandese cuisine as such for the simple reason that traditionally rich people did not eat at all!

    The rich people, with many cattles, used to live by drinking milk , eat cow meat and drink Urwagwa (the Banana wine)!

    Actually it was a shame to eat, therefore no child could see his parents eating!

    Ginno

  15. kigaliwire says:

    Sbangel, Handee – or the semi-renamed Zaffran – is the best food I have found in Kigali. A British-Indian friend agreed…

    Sbr – if you want to take me to the Nyamirambo joint, or at least give me good directions I will definitely go. Kigali needs good (not Bourbon) espresso.

  16. Anon says:

    http://www.gobackpacking.com/Blog/2010/04/29/photo-essay-fine-dining-nyungwe-forest-lodge/

    I am not quite sure what to say about this link. Very fancy food available in Rwanda at a price. Not really “Rwandan”. Good for the “high end” tourists I guess. And, such development may bring jobs and tourist money. Its what you can do with peace and security.

  17. Trude says:

    I’m late to this party, the internet in these parts has not been so hot.

    I’m going to second Anon. The buffets you’ve probably tried won’t hold a candle to home cooked Rwandan food. Find a good Rwandan Mama (or one with a good umukozi), befriend her, and get a dinner invite. While I’m a spice and herb fanatic, I love the simple complimentary flavors of fresh-picked green beans and carrots. The admittedly bland bananas can be made delicious in the hands of a capable isosi (sauce) maker, and ubugari (fufu, sort of) is rather fantastic with fresh sambaza or indagara (Kivu fish large and small) in isosi. Or just go simple with some fried sweet potatoes, fried beans (frying is essential, if you’re eating beans that have only been boiled then they’re not true Rwandan beans) and dodo (greens) with intoryi (the little eggplants). Don’t forget that urusenda is at its best roasted and dabbed directly onto your food.

  18. Jiffler says:

    For a Rwandan culinary treat try the Ngolo Chicken served at Chez Lando. You’ll have to wait a while for it, but it’s worth it. Chicken (not poulet bicyclette) baked in sombe inside a tinfoil parcel.

  19. kigaliwire says:

    Trude, I will go in search of a Mama.

    Jiffler, good shout. I have tried the fish version of what sounds like the same dish. Will look out the poulet version next time I’m up there.

  20. […] I could murder a brochette […]

  21. MacMyDay says:

    Hey – Don’t diss the brochettes! Good god! Tuck away in a plastic resin chain and chow on those bad boys and the madness and mayhem of Kigali disappears. Though you need a beer, too. This is the national dish and it deserves a bit of respect. Think of the opportunity… you could take this worldwide, bochetterias, so to speak, could be the next thing. And to think. you heard it hear, first.

  22. MacMyDay says:

    i meant resin chair…. (if you’ll edit, please)