Meat in Kigali: Where East Africa’s carnivorous cultures converge

Sunday July 24 2011

Roast goat meat at Kamau’s Nyama Choma eatery in Kimirongo. Kelvin Odoobo

It begins with Rwandans. Meat, especially served as an evening snack to accompany a beer comes in chunks skewered on a stick, called brochette, popular across Central Africa. The brochette is usually goat meat, threaded with white onion or other vegetables or bread and often spiced with hot Rwandan chilli. Sometimes it comes with liver or Zingalo – roasted goat offal, similar to the mutura, a Kenyan roast goat offal delicacy. A typical mutura is the small intestine of a goat, stuffed with slightly cooked goat blood, chilli and small chunks of meat.

Ugandans call brochette muchomo, a common snack sold to travellers on all major stops on the national highways. These meat-on-stick snacks or mishkaki, as the Tanzanians call them, compete with roast and ripe bananas, biscuits and other snacks. But the brochettes are not just mutton, there are fish brochettes, especially popular in Burundi, served on a metal skewer.

One brochette costs anywhere from 250-600 RWF ($-0.40-$1), depending on the place. Brochettes are eaten with French fries (costing $1 or more), but the much cheaper option is two halves of a potato, fried until crunchy, for 100 Rwandan francs. You can also order them with grilled or roast bananas.

The meat-eating culture in Rwanda has now been boosted by the growing number of Kenyans in the country. This means the Rwandan meat culture has now expanded to fresh mutton in the form of mbuzi choma (roast goat meat) right in the heart of Kigali, complete with kachumbari (tomato and onion salad) sukumawiki (kale) on the side and a cold Tusker. Not that it matters who really eats what meat. The sight of Burundians, Rwandans, or Ugandans enjoying a serving of nyama choma does not raise eyebrows anymore. Just like it does not matter that steaming hot boiled goat meat and soup served in a bowl, another of Rwanda’s meat speciality is interestingly similar to Nairobi’s popular cup of bone soup, served with ugali. In Rwanda, hot chilli is never far away either.

The daily slaughter of pigs in Kampala’s suburbs of Nakulabye and Wandegeya is slowly creeping into Kigali as the pork culture catches on, starting from Remera-Kabeza suburbs especially in the aptly industriously nicknamed Akabenz area — no relation to the Mercedes Benz although the allusion should be obvious — apparently the pig’s snout looks like the Mercedes’ logo!

The name Akabenz is perhaps a natural extension of the creative ingenuity around the informal pseudo names given to pigs and pork in East Africa. Apart from Kenya, where pork has long been associated with Farmers Choice sausages, in Uganda, pork evokes interesting sentiments. Alluding to a statement made President Yoweri Museveni once, that past presidents were swine, now Kampala’s favourite meat has a comical name, “past leaders.” People talk of going to eat “past leaders” or “mwana wa Daudi,” Kiganda for David’s child. I once laughed my head off when a Tanzanian friend told me that in Tanzania, where social politeness is a norm rather than exception, pork is referred to as “mbuzi ya wakatoliki,” meaning “the Catholic’s goat,” to avoid offending Muslims, who consider pork haram. In Kenya for the same reason, it is called “mbuzi ulaya” literally meaning European goat.


But we cannot talk about meat and forget chicken. And in this case we are not talking about the type sold in Kenya under the fastfood brand name Kenchic. Rwanda’s chicken are big and are served mostly roasted not deep fried. It is not uncommon to find a couple on an evening out or a group of friends enjoying a whole bird, complete with white onions and mayonnaise for flavour.

In Kampala, the joke is that if you are served with a larger-than-normal chicken, then most probably it is Karoli (marabou stork).
Of course this cannot happen in Kigali, where the general cleanliness of the city ensures that marabou storks have no garbage to breed and wallow in. So no chance either for unscrupulous traders to literally make a killing from these birds.

Kigali is clearly an East African melting pot where anyone can enjoy a decent version of their favourite meat dish. A proper meat eatery in Kigali proudly lists a variety of meat dishes that will appeal to the taste buds of a multinational populace.