Why 'poor man's breakfast,' katogo, is going off menus

Saturday March 02 2024

Uganda's once popular breakfast dish is on the verge of extinction. PHOTO | GILBERT MWIJUKE | NMG


There was a time when katogo was the main breakfast dish in most parts of Uganda. Derived from various Bantu languages, “katogo” simply means “a mixture of things”. It is typically a mixture of cassava and beans, or matooke (green bananas) and offal or beef and groundnut stew.

The spices are varied, but it usually has a hint of tomato, onion, garlic, and, sometimes, herbs, which coat it with a rich and spicy layer.

Sometimes accompanied with cooked greens and fruit juice or salads for a balanced meal, katogo is a hearty and delicious dish that keeps one energised for the day.

Katogo can be considered to be Uganda’s "fast food" because it takes a short time to prepare — usually 30-40 minutes — and this is one of the reasons that made it a popular breakfast dish.

But Uganda’s popular breakfast dish is fast disappearing from most restaurants. Today, if you order katogo at breakfast, the majority of restaurants will serve you a mixture of matooke, rice, posho and potatoes – basically the same food that is served at lunch or dinner.

Aggrey Nshekanabo, a Kampala-based hotel owner, concedes that the original katogo is becoming rarer on most Ugandan restaurant menus because it was perceived as food for the poor — especially the cassava and beans katogo. Cassava was introduced in Uganda in the late 19th century as a famine-fighting food crop.


“Many Ugandans considered it to be food for the poor so nowadays the original Katogo is mainly found in a few places in the ghettos. But we also need to keep it alive in upscale restaurants because it gives us a culinary identity as Ugandans, since it used to be consumed regularly country wide. My grandmother used to prepare katogo for breakfast every morning before we left for school,” he said.

Mr Nshekanabo adds that his team was initially sceptical when he mooted the idea of preparing katogo, but three years since its introduction it has become the signature dish at this establishment, in the suburbs of Kampala.

Even though katogo can be prepared within 30 minutes, it is best cooked for about one hour to enhance the flavours and make it tastier, says to Chef Judith Amado.

“Here, we prepare katogo the same way our grandparents used to prepare it decades ago. We mostly cook it slowly, all the ingredients used are organic, and we use ghee instead of cooking oil. It’s one of the healthiest dishes you can eat,” she said.

Apart from the usual meat, beans and cowpeas, Amando says that sometimes she also prepares fish katogo for some customers, but all types are served ala carte — and throughout the day.

“There are some who order katogo with both beans and fish or meat,” Amado said.

Most Kampala residents prefer this katogo, but it’s rarely available in many restaurants or food joints across the city.