Knowing Kigali: What’s on the menu?

Every morning, like a student preparing for final, defining exams, I study the map of Kigali pamphlet in the house.

Where to go? What to do? What new phrase (in Kinyarwanda) to learn and put into practice (if I remember)? Which experience to explore?

Bumbling my way through unfamiliar area names – Gikondo, Gisozi, Kiyovu, Gitega, Nyamirambo (Rambo?!), Kimimurura (the French and Spanish languages I learnt over the years have shown how deceptive they were! They were easy to pronounce! Want to learn a language? Try an African one and observe how your entire vocal cavity is not only manipulated but almost also violated as you attempt to articulate it. That’s exactly how I felt! I need to learn more African dialects though.) – my eyes skim past the various sections on moto taxis, accommodation, landmarks, sports and recreation before finally settling on the food section.

I skip the international offerings – Italian, Indian, Mexican, French, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, even African – Ugandan, – until I arrive at the Rwandan cuisine.

Excited, I read the text to discover what the local cuisine has to offer. Like a deflated balloon, my excitement is burst. If I was expecting to see sauces, soups, carbs/protein dishes such as we have back home, I was expecting too much.

Na small these people take senior aboki, comments Tg when I initially inquire about the Rwandans. In polite terms – nomads. This means beef. Lots of it and cheaply too.

Their food is, of course, beef. No mounds of carbohydrate – filled staples.


No oil – saturated, vegetable – crammed sauces.


No spicy, tomato – based stews (but they do have akabanga – a fiery sauce in a bottle. Add to your meal to increase its peppery taste (or lack thereof).


So beef it was.

Seasoned and roasted but not to the texture of our dried, suya meat delicacy. Yamachuma (as it is called) delivers a chewy, slightly moist flavour to your palate, and comes with the nostalgic whiff of the grill. Safe not spicy, and fit for any age to enjoy.

Accompanying it was a salsa I not only completely finished and took back home with me but was also a fitting back – up. The combination of vegetables – onions, tomatoes, peppers – , the ensuing fresh taste and the softly grilled meat gave me temporary amnesia about their lack of proper dishes.

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