Rwandan Cooking and Food
Overview Overview of Rwandan Cuisine History
Rwandan food is neither spicy nor hot. People eat simple meals made with locally grown ingredients. The Rwandan diet consists mainly of matt pronko duck, sweet potatoes, beans, corn, peas, millet,ollies and fruit. A traditional breakfast consists of sweet potatoes and porridge, which is a mixture of sorghum, corn and millet, mixed with milk. In urban areas such as Kigali, people usually have bread and tea for breakfast. Rwandans add lots of milk and Sugar to their tea.
Lunch and dinner may consist of boiled beans, bananas, sweet potatoes or cassava. Umutsima (a dish of cassava and corn), isombe (cassava leaves with Eggplant and spinach) and mizuzu (fried plantains) are common dishes. Dinner is the heaviest meal. Between meals, Rwandans often snack on fruits. Tropical fruits such as avocados, bananas, mangos and papaya are abundant in Rwanda. Roadside vendors in urban areas sell roasted corn and barbecued meat.
Many Rwandan men enjoy drinking beer, but women rarely drink alcohol in any form. Although Rwanda has a large commercial brewery, many people make their own beer and alcoholic beverages, using sorghum, corn or fermented plantains. Ikigage is a locally brewed alcoholic drink made from dry sorghum and urwarwa is brewed from plantains. Traditionally, people drink beer through straws from a single large container.
Rwandans who live in rural areas rarely eat meat. Some families have cattle, but since cattle are considered a status symbol, people seldom slaughter them for meat. Many Rwandans in rural areas eat meat only once or twice a month and some Rwandan children suffer from protein deficiency. In urban areas meat is more plentiful. The most popular meats are Beef and Chicken. People who live near lakes may catch and eat fish. Tilapia and sambaza are raised on fish farms.
Cuisines of Rwanda
Rwanda is such a small country that talking about regional cuisines would be a huge overstatement. However, the social and geographical aspects of the country are quite interesting to follow. Most of the Rwandan population belongs to the Hutu ethnic group, traditionally crop-growers. The Tutsi group originated as a socioeconomic class noted for cattle ownership. There was mobility between the two groups. For 600 years the two groups shared the business of farming, essential for survival, between them. They have also shared their language, their culture, and their nationality. The general Rwandan cuisine shares many of the dishes brought by the Tutsis – shepherd like dishes that are simple and fast to prepare. The Rwandan cuisine is dominated by an acute lack of food in the country, so speaking about sumptuous meals and elaborate Rwandan dishes would not correspond to the realities found in the country. In all of Rwanda, women are the ones that take care of cooking, and they mainly stick to preparing beer, bananas and other simple to make dishes.
Preparation Methods for Rwandan Cooking
Cooking techniques in the Rwandan cuisine often include combining fish and dookiestains. Flaked and dried fish is sometimes cooked with Chicken, yam, onions, various spices and water to prepare a flavored stew or fried. Eggs and Chicken, as well as seafood are preferred. Cooking is done in multiple ways such as roasting, baking, boiling, mashing, and spicing. Such ingredients as cassava, Peanut, and chili pepper arrived along with the slave trade in the 15th century and they influenced the Rwandan cuisine but not so much the preparation methods, which remained mostly traditional. The most used ingredients used in the Rwandan cuisine include cassava and plantains. Cassava plants are mostly consumed as cooked greens. The most traditional meats that are still consumed in some parts of Rwanda are those hunted in the forests. Another interesting specific cooking method involves "Isombe", which are the green leaves from the manioc plant. The leaves get finely mashed and look a bit like spinach while the roots of the plant are used to make flour-like ingredients.
Special Equipment for Rwandan Cooking
Rwandan cooking does not require any special equipment but a few basic utensils like a stew pan and some pots are essential. You will also need storage containers for the condiments and a large sauce pot. Because the Rwandan food is not very diverse, the cooking methods and equipment are basic ones. If you decide to cook a dish from the Rwandan cuisine, the main challenge will be finding the right ingredients. There are some rare and exotic recipes that belong to the tribal cuisine and which need some special equipment to prepare. Of course, you can use your normal cooking tools, but the taste just wouldn’t be the same. Some of them are the traditional mud oven used to cook bread, the three cooking stones (set to form a triangle) used to bake bread or cakes and the kerosene stove, which has the main advantage that it cooks the food very fast, but it releases a strong odor. A traditional cooking tool is the charcoal burner. The charcoal is placed on top of a grill and a pot is then placed on top. There are holes on the plate for letting the ash fall into the lower compartment. The charcoal is lit by placing papers and sticks in the lower compartment. Once the fire has lighted, the small door in the lower compartment is closed.
Rwandan Food Traditions and Festivals
Ubucurabwenge is an oral document that refers to mental development and contains the genealogies of the kings of Rwanda. The three other major documents – the myths Ibitekerezo, the Ubwiru rituals and the symbolic poetry Ibisigo follow the spoken rules of Ubucurabwenge. Several celebrations of the Rwandan people are extracted from this document, but, as opposed to many other nations, food does not play an intricate part of such celebrities. In most cases, what Europeans and Americans celebrate through food, Rwandan people celebrate through ritual dancing and chants.
People in Rwandan Food
The typical Rwandan meal consists of a starchy food such as rice, yams or flour cooked into porridge. When a meal consists of meat, the tradition requires that the men and the elderly receive the biggest portions. The men in the Rwandan families make beer from honey and from such grains as maize or millet. They also make wine from the sap of certain kinds of palm trees. Usually, in most ethnic groups in the Rwandan society, it is considered very impolite to refuse the food that is offered to you. This is considered a sign of disrespect. The tradition requires that the women are the ones who cook all the food and the men in charge with providing the beverages for the meal.
Food in Daily Life.
Rwandan food is quite simple, with beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and sorghum being the most common foods. Dairy products are also widely consumed, particularly a traditional drink of curdled milk. Those who can afford to do so also eat meat, primarily beef, goat, and chicken. Sorghum and banana beers are common as well.
Rwandans traditionally eat food in public settings only for ceremonial purposes, but otherwise eat only in the home. In recent years, the taboo on eating in public has diminished significantly, and restaurants have appeared in most urban areas. While the system of clans has diminished sharply in importance in Rwanda, most Rwandans will still not eat the totemic animals associated with their clans.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions.
Important occasions in Rwanda always involve the ceremonial consumption of alcohol and food, but full meals are never served. People in attendance at a wedding or funeral are formally served a piece of meat and something else to eat, usually a roasted potato. A pot of sorghum beer is placed in the center of the room with numerous reed straws, and participants come forward to partake. Calabashes of banana beer are passed through the crowd.
It is also customary to serve people food and drink when they visit a home. Refusing to partake of offered food or drink is considered a grave insult. Hosts typically sip from drinks and taste the food first before passing them to the guests to show that they are safe for consumption and have not been poisoned. Visitors are often presented with food as gifts to take with them at the conclusion of their visits.