Brochettes and Chips for Sunday Lunch
Bill is pictured with our friend Gavin. He and his wife Bronwen
(sitting next to Bill but sadly not in the picture) are with
Mission Rwanda, a very cool outfit from Scotland.
Check out their blog in the blog list.
The nagging question we had was, what is Rwandan home cooking? We finally got a decent taste of it when we happened on a weekend buffet lunch at a local café we like. During the week, this restaurant (which few abazungu frequent) serves burgers and pizza. The only local fare that we could understand were brochettes, which is meat, usually beef, roasted on a skewer with onions. (See the picture!) Brochettes and chips (French fries) seem to be the Rwandan version of a burger and fries. Except that it’s not fast. Nothing here is fast.
But back to the buffet: for ~$5 a piece, we could load one plate as full as we liked of several local dishes. Given how we’ve been eating the past weeks, which is pretty simple and spare, this spread was a cornucopia. For those of you from the South who know of such things, it was an African Luby’s, but without the ladies who chant “Thank-you-m’elp-you”. It was all Rwandan home-cooking, and it was completely soul-satisfying. Here’s my attempt to list from memory the items that were laid out on two sides of a ten-foot table: On one side were the hot items; cold salads were on the other.
On the hot side:
- Rice (jasmine, with a few cubes of vegetables mixed in for color).
- Potatoes slightly mashed in a light tomato-y sauce. (The sauce was pureed, but I thought I tasted some green pepper in it.)
- Roasted cassava root. Boring but substantial.
- White beans.
- Aubergines (small eggplants that really look like eggs, both in color and size) in tomato sauce with a vinegar kick.
- Greens that were cooked to look like an Indian saag. They are the leafy part of the cassava and taste a bit like collards or mustard greens but are not nearly so strong.
- Fried plantains.
- Cubes of stewed beef (the sign said “3, only”). Meat in Rwanda is a challenge for the jaw.
- Gravy for the beef and whatever else. It’s a gravy seen everywhere here—you can buy plastic packets of it in the produce section at a few markets. It has a tomato flavor added to a thin beef gravy. It’s pretty good.
- For an extra $2, you could add in a piece of chicken or fish, both in what looked like the same gravy, but we didn’t feel the need for it.
On the cold side: (I don’t remember this side as well because I loaded up on hot food.)
- Cauliflower that had been batter-dipped and fried, chilled, then mixed with strings of carrot in a light vinaigrette.
- Sliced tomatoes.
- Potato salad.
- Carrot salad.
- Cucumber salad.
- Large slices of perfectly ripe avocado with vinaigrette on the side.
We hear complaints that Rwandan food is boring and monotonous. It might be that we will get tired of it, but still this was the best meal we’d had in a few weeks. (And we don’t bore easily, anyway.) There is a saying I find myself repeating on a regular basis these days: “If you’ve had a good meal today, it hasn’t been a bad day.” So true.