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Think Global, Act Local: A Gastronomic Trip To Rwanda

Photo by Kara Jeffers

Imana yirirwa ahandi igataha iRwanda.

This adage in Kinyarwanda (the Rwandan native language) literally means God wanders the world during the day then at night comes home to Rwanda.

How Rwandocentric of us, right?

Let me take you on a gastronomic trip to the land of milk and honey where the soil of its thousand hills is so fertile that everything you harvest has a divine and flavorful taste!

What is a typical Rwandan dish? Can you find any Rwandan food here in restaurants or markets? What do you miss the most about Rwandan food? What other ethnic foods resemble the most Rwandan cuisine?

A Gastronomic Trip to Rwanda

Showcasing Rwandan gastronomy in one meal or even a feast is never easy, however, I will attempt to give you a glimpse using some flavorful words to convey the exquisite tastes of Rwanda.

I have decided to take you on a full day of this Rwandan culinary trip starting with breakfast, then lunch, afternoon snacks and finally a ceremonial dinner.

Let’s start with some contextual background on influences infused in traditional Rwandan cuisine:

Being in the heart of Africa, Rwandans benefited from a plethora of food cultures from our neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, plus some influence from east Indian cuisine.

Staple foods: green bananas, rice, pulses, plantains, sweet potato, cassava, beans and maize.

BREAKFAST

Avocado on bread, fruit salad (passion fruit, banana, pineapple, mango, papaya) and an omelet.

Warm
 beverages: Rwandan chai tea, black tea or igikoma (sorghum porridge)

Cold 
beverage: cup of ikivuguto plain liquid yogurt or cup of amata (milk), freshly pressed juice of any exotic available fruit

LUNCH

Cold
 Beverage:
Passion fruit or tamarillo juice, cup of ikivuguto plain liquid yogurt or cup of amata (milk)

A fresh salad of onions, tomatoes, carrots and lettuce with vinaigrette

Vegetables: boiled green bananas, egg plants, green beans and peas marinated with peanuts

Black or brown beans

Pilau: rice, which contains spices and herbs that gives it an amazing long-lasting taste

Meat: grilled beef and goat meat marinated with onions and herbs

Served on the side: a homemade hot sauce from yellow pepper and oil for the adventurous and trained palates. A famous commercialized chili sauce called Akabanga. It is contained in an eye drop small bottle, which makes it easy to travel with. (If you ever want to tastefully stimulate your taste buds, let me know and I will get you one.)

Dessert: assortments of fresh fruits (passion fruits, papaya, mango, pineapple, and tamarillos)

SNACK

Sweet: Amandazi (plain doughnut)

Savory: 
Sambusas filled with meat or vegetable, meatballs (with no sauce but a taste of herbs and spices) and grilled corn

Cold
Beverage: fresh juice, cup of amata (milk) or cup of ikivuguto (liquid plain yogurt)

DINNER

Alcohol: hydromel (mead), urwagwa banana beer, ikigage (sorghum beer) and banana wine

Cold beverage: tamarillo or passion fruit juice, cup of ikivuguto plain liquid yogurt or cup of amata (milk)

Warm 
beverage:
 Rwandan chai tea or black tea with honey

Meat: goat kebab, beef kebab, mizuzu (fried plantains), ubugali (cassava boiled flour) and isambaza (small species of fish)

Vegetables: isombe (cassava leaves stew), peanuts stew with butternut squash, onion fried black beans

Served 
on 
the 
side:
 a homemade hot sauce made from yellow pepper and oil for the adventurous and trained palates

Dessert: 
assortment of fruits (bananas, mangos, pineapple and tamarillos)

In the FM area, there is only one place I can find Rwandan like dishes – ADIBON owned by Sifa who is from the Kivu Lake region. You can find her at the Red River Market, at numerous festivals in town such as Pangea and she caters to private events. She makes exquisite food that will make you feel as if you’ve been transported you overseas instantly.

Places in the FM area where the ethnic foods come close to Rwandan cuisine are Acapulco, Liberian Merry Go Round African Restaurant, Tikka Everest, Indian Palace, Rugsan Cuisine and Café Aladdin.

This was just a tip of the iceberg that Rwandan cuisine represents, therefore, I hope that this will help you be more gastronomically adventurous or even want to jump on a “quick” 22-hour trip with itinerary:

Fargo => Chicago or Minneapolis => to Amsterdam or Brussels => then a direct plane to KIGALI the capital of Rwanda!

Muryoherwe kandi Murakoze cyane! (Bon Appétit & Merci Beaucoup!)

Alex Cyusa

P.S. In order to ensure an exquisite culinary experience, sharing one’s meal is a firmly held belief of the Rwandan people.

Written by Alexandre Cyusa

Alexandre Cyusa came to the FM area in the fall of 2010 to attend Concordia College. Originally from Kigali, Rwanda, Cyusa has lived in Switzerland, Ethiopia, Guinea and France. His traveling experiences have helped him in making this world a smaller and simpler place to live in. He currently works for Folkways and is interested in community development and nurturing global citizenship.

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