We all know about the awesome power of bananas. Not only is banana often voted one of the most popular fruit, it is also extremely nutritious and beneficial to digestion and heart health. No doubt, Ugandans go even more bananas for this healthy fruit to make it their national dish!
Matoke, locally known as matooke or ebitookye in Uganda, is a variation of starchy plantain banana. This fruit is harvested green and must becooked before consumption. Like other countries in this region, bananas are one of the most important staple food crops in Uganda. Furthermore, Uganda is the world’s second greatest producer of bananas after India where more than 65% of the country’s urban population depends on this staple food. Depending on the region, Ugandans eat as much as 1 kg of bananas a day, making them the nation who consumes the most bananas in the world. As a food security crop, it also helps with famine avoidance and provides in times of scarcity between cereal harvests.
In the East African culture, the care and cooking of matoke are generally tasks reserved for women. During our visit in Uganda, we were lucky to visit a local women’s group giving us a glimpse into the life of rural Ugandans along with a fascinating matoke cooking class. The large branch of bananas was first chopped fresh from the top of the tree in mama’s backyard. The matoke was then carefully peeled using a knife, wrapped in the banana leave and finally set in a cooking pot for several hours of steaming until tender. The cooking process will turn the initially hard white banana to soft and yellow. In Uganda, matoke is typically eaten with a sauce made of vegetables, ground peanut, or some type of meat. During this cooking process, literally nothing will be wasted from this precious plant. The banana stalk will be placed in the pot to keep the matoke from the water, the plantain leaf is used for serving and any remaining material can even be used by artisans to weave baskets.
If you ever visit Uganda, one cannot leave without going bananas about their national banana dish!