When people talk about ‘Kenyan wife material’, how to make ugali is top on the list. At least that was true some years back. Kenya Ugali is sure to be a regular meal in most homes. In the rural setting, a wife-to-be would show how well they can take care of her family with her ugali cooking skills on a three-stone fire. It’s proof of a perfectly groomed woman. This vegetarian African food is endeared all around the country, with different names according to the various tribes. For example ‘kuon, Obusuma, Sima, Ngima, and Kimnyet. Ugali is a very important part of the traditional food in Kenya. And that explains our delight in traveling with you to East Africa, Kenya for a feast. For West Africans, this is more like how you cherish jollof rice or fufu. Speaking of, Fufu vs Ugali, are they the same thing?
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No, Ugali is not Fufu
Ugali is just ugali and fufu is just fufu. This is where you’d receive that funny look for thinking Africa is a country. Or that all Kenyans are really good distance runners. Lol. Fufu vs Ugali is as different as the East is from the West. I mean, literally.
First, the ingredients and cooking methods differ. West Africans pride themselves on the laborious task of pounding fufu with the expected benefit of yummy results. But presently, there are modern premade innovations that make the process easier. Find out more in this Flavorful Liberian Fufu and Soup Recipe.
This therefore means the texture and taste of Fufu is not the same as Ugali. Maize flour is a common ingredient for making ugali, but you can also mix it with or substitute it for sorghum, millet, or cassava flour. We’ll talk more about how to make ugali and its significance as a traditional food in Kenya. Bottom line, Ugali may look like fufu in appearance and eating etiquette (the art & the accompaniment), but they are different foods. With that in mind, please prepare fufu vs ugali and share your experience in the comment section. We’d love to hear your take.
What does Ugali taste like?
As a Liberian who loves rice, I was hesitant to eat ugali. It turns out, my curiosity to learn about African nations through food is stronger than any resistance about eating it. Ugali tastes like a smooth corn meal with the texture of cornbread. Ugali is chewy, and well bodied like rice. Unlike rice, it is very light on the stomach and one can eat a good portion of it without gorging. Ugali might look like fufu but trust me, you cannot and will not swallow ugali like they do cassava fufu. Ugali is corn-based and textured, so you will chew it nicely without over-chewing for hours. Give ugali a try today!
The Kenyan Delicacy and Staple Food
Honestly, Kenya Ugali’s exact origin remains unknown. Historians have alluded to its discovery many centuries ago when a woman preparing porridge accidentally added too much flour. But we somewhat can tell the onset of maize in the country, before which sorghum and millet were the main grains available to make this vegetarian African food.
Simply put, ugali is a mixture of maize flour in boiling water resulting in a stiff dough that can be molded and sit on a plate. When the ugali is ready, you mold it at the center of your cooking pot. Then flip your pot upside down on a wide plate and use your cooking stick to mold it to a beautiful round shape. Serve it hot and eat it with your bare hands.
It isn’t a complete meal by itself, serve it as the main carb with soup, vegetables, or stew. That’s not to undermine its taste. You can tell from the inviting aroma of baked ugali (imagine cooking popcorn). A well-cooked ugali has a delightful taste like mild popcorn and a hint of perfectly roasted maize. The top secret on how to make ugali is using a good mwiko and ensuring there are no lumps by mixing the flour nicely as it firms up.
One more thing, always cook more than the size you think is enough. Leftover ugali is evidence that everyone ate their fill. This doesn’t go to waste; you can add it back to the boiling water the next time you are cooking ugali. You can also sprinkle some salt on it and enjoy it with tea or slice it into small pieces and deep fry them for a healthy snack.
Any Health Benefits?
Of course! But it depends on the type of flour you use to make your ugali. The more wholesome the flour is, the more beneficial it is to your health. More like the benefits of brown rice compared to white rice. In a nutshell, research shows that whole-grain ugali contains good carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin B, and minerals.
Good carbohydrates are essential because the body absorbs them at a slow rate therefore keeping you full for longer. Whole flour from maize, sorghum, and finger millet provides fiber that helps the body in preventing constipation, effective blood sugar balance, and management of diabetes. The B vitamins in ugali contribute to healthy skin, hair, nails, and proper digestion & brain function. Lastly, the many minerals of ugali help in supporting normal bone and teeth development.
Wow, no wonder the appreciation for Kenya Ugali as the best traditional food in Kenya. Most locals who have grown up eating it are sure about this as the sun sets. Is it something you’d like to try? It is worthwhile! Let us know how it goes in the comments section. Kila la Kheri (All the best).
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- 1 cup maize meal/corn meal
- 2 cups of water
- For a perfectly cooked Kenya Ugali, use a hollow heavy-bottomed cooking pot. This gives you room to mix and turn your ugali, plus allows it to cook without burning. Also, choose a cooking pot with a handle as you'll need to hold the pot firmly while stirring your ugali. Measure two cups of water into the cooking pot and place it on the stove. Boil the water on medium-high heat.
- Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low. Add a cup of flour to the boiling water and let it cook for a few seconds until water begins to cover the flour.
- Using a strong wooden spoon, start stirring to mix the flour and water. This is important to avoid lumps from forming. Gradually add the other cup of flour as you stir and press the mixture against the sides of the pan to break up the lumps.
- Keep stirring and pressing to break any remaining lumps. Use your wooden spoon to spread the mixture in the pot evenly (like you'd spread butter on bread). This gives it enough warmth for a perfect bake. Let it cook for about 2-3 minutes and use your wooden spoon to turn the ugali upside down and spread it again to allow the top part to cook. Let it cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- The ugali will begin to come away from the sides of the pan, and probably give a whistle-like sound. This shows your ugali is ready. To test if the Ugali is done, take a small portion and roll it into a ball using your fingers. It should hold its shape and not feel too sticky.
- At this point, mold it to a dome at the center of the pot in readiness for serving. Place a plate over the pot and turn it upside down then lift the cooking pot off the plate slowly so the steam doesn't burn you.
- Enjoy it whole or sliced with your favorite soup Or stew.
- For a softer consistency, add 1/2 a cup of water.
- This traditional food in Kenya is best served hot. So, prepare it just before you're about to have your meal.