Sunday, January 3, 2010

Luwombo


The fates decreed, not I, that the article on Uganda for my monster Encylopedia would be written by me. Not the first time I have written something about which I know nothing. Luckily I had a friend of a friend, Roger Serunyigo, tell me all he could from the inside, as someone in the Baganda culture, and whose mom is apparently a fantastic cook.

So today I decided to make matooke. Plantains are not as good as little green bananas from S.E. Asia, which came out nice. Wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Then mashed. And I was told cooked over a real fire makes everything taste better. I am now cerain of that. So, the main dish is Luwombo. For the book I wrote the recipe with chicken, but trust me, beef was unfathomably delicious. You need a really tough fatty cut. I used back ribs, cut off the bone. Use an expensive cut and this will probably be awful.

You first brown some onions, throw in some grated ginger, some salt and pepper, a few chopped tomatoes, and then a lot of real finely pounded peanuts. It's not peanut butter, just ground peanuts. Then quickly grill the beef, which has been cut into small pieces, over a fire. Real fire. After barely browned, throw it into the sauce. Then wrap this whole mixture in banana leaves and tie on top with several strands of banana leaves. Any S.E. Asian shop sells them frozen.

Then put them in a big pot, over an upturned plate, with some water on the bottom, with the matooke too, cover and put on a charcoal fire, and let it steam for a couple of hours. Must be eaten with fingers. Well, actually not, but I prefer my fingers!



Can I say, I have never tasted anything like this in my life. The leaves so intensely flavor everything, no other seasoning is necessary. The beef is soft and pliable, but still chewy, not a stew, but a steamed meat with peanut sauce dish. I could have eaten it all but didn't. No one else in my house would touch it. Anyone like Ugandan food, come over any time.
Any if anyone can explain the sexual politics of luwombo to me, please do! I think if a woman cooks it for a man, it means she wants him. And a man should never marry a woman who can't cook it. Where does that put me??

11 comments:

Cindy said...

Not sure where that puts you, but good luck on the Uganda piece. I know several people (some anthropologists) who've lived there who might be able to answer questions if you have any others.

Cindy

kryssie's daily photo said...

This reminds me of the pasteles I had in Puerto Rico in a little kiosk in the El Yunque Rainforest. They did have a dough surrounding the yummy filling, but they are cooked in banana leaves as well.

Darius T. Williams said...

LOL - I'm not sure what it means, but you've got me wanting to go and pick up some banana leaves!

~~louise~~ said...

I'm with Darius. Luwombo sounds absolutely tantalizing. I need some banana leaves, now!!!

Thanks for sharing, Ken. You have the most intriguing posts:)

Ken Albala said...

Thanks all, The technique of steaming in banana leaves appears to be pretty universal wherever there are bananas. Africa, SE Asia, South America. I've done it in the past with seafood, just a mix with chilies and lime, wrapped up and thrown on hot coals. It is really succulent. A package of frozen leaves cost about a dollar in any Asian gorcery store, so it's well worth hunting down.

chrismatica said...

yes, they are pretty universal, banana leaves. I've done Chinese sticky rice before. The glutin is so thick I don't think any banana leaf taste comes through. Eager to try the Luwombo

roger serunyigo said...

Hey Ken,
Woow!you are really so adventurous.I can not believe you tried out 'luwombo'local dish.I wish you could post some of it to Uganda..it's origin for a taste??
It surely looked good in the banana leaves and true,they make the food tasteer.
Cheers
Roger
Ps:Come to Uganda and your mouth will water till...we have lots of delicacies.

Ken Albala said...

Thanks Roger, Thanks are all to you and your mom for the inspiration!! I wish there were a way to judge the authenticity. I may just have to come to Uganda. Or have you both over for dinner when you're in town. Until then...

Adam Balic said...

That looks amazing Ken, I'll look forward to seeing the final recipe. Sri Owen has published some lovely Indonesian steamed food recipes and Bali has some great dishes using this technique

What an fantastic cooking process steaming is. It seems to be found in Africa, Asia and S. America, I wonder why it seems to have not developed to any great extent in Europe.

man suit said...

Thanks for the share I enjoy reading this.

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