Sunday, July 20, 2008

Uganda Highlights: The Rolex

Matoke never grew on me while I was in Uganda. I defer to a colleague's description - no matter how often I tried it, or what sauces it came with, it still tasted like "musty socks." I know this may be a hard thing to hear for any Ugandan, for whom the yellow mush is comfort food.

But there's another Ugandan specialty that is worth writing home about: the rolex. No, it's not a fancy watch. The local name for "rolled eggs," it's street food, made of eggs scrambled with random veggies, lots of grease, and rolled into a chapati. Some claim it originated just 8 years ago at Makerere University, but it's a national dish by now; we found it all the way in the southwest reaches of Uganda.

I had it 3 or 4 times while I was in Uganda last month, and each time it hit the spot in the way that a bacon cheeseburger or rava dosa usually only can for me. Maybe it's because we were starving, sweaty and tired after being "in the field" when we ate these. Maybe it was the special seasoning of Ugandan dust and old pan grease that drips out the end of the chapati on that last bite.

Whatever the reason, it's a pretty special thing.
David will tell you that himself.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Gravalax, Uganda style ?

I can't say I know much about Scandinavian cooking, but I'm generally a fan of gravalax. With its light dill, coriander and sugary-brined flavors, it's got more to entertain tastebuds than your average lox. Seafood "cooked" without heat seems to be a favorite of mine (check out the earlier post on ceviche). Anyway, since salmon seems to be easy to find this summer, I experimented with a few online recipes a few weeks ago with some success.

It helped that the latest Saveur was an issue dedicated to the art of gravalax. With pictures that tantalizing, it was hard not to try making the stuff at home!

It was an amusing coincidence, then, when just a week later, I found myself halfway around the world in the heart of Africa - Kampala, Uganda to be exact - and gravlax appeared on the dinner menu! With a Ugandan twist, mind you - this wasn't your Scandinavian grandma's brined fish. Actually, the appetizer was a crocodile gravalax. I can't say it was delicious, but it was definitely. . . interesting. Chewy and a bit like chicken, with a funky aftertaste. Maybe that was a bit of Nile flavoring?

Props to the chefs at Emin Pasha's Fez restaurant (in Kampala) for putting such an audacious 'fusion' dish on their menu. And proving that refined culinary adventures can be had in even the far reaches of the world. . .