The first time Jenn visited me in Uganda, I posted about some of the good things we ate. In fact, many of my ethnographic adventures have been shaped by the gastronomic adventures that have come as an essential part of those experiences. My dear sister in law asked me to write down some of the recipes, and although I did, so many of them cannot be made without locally sourced ingredients, or at least things I can’t get in Tallahassee. This is not the case for muchomo.
Muchomo refers to roasted meat of various kinds: beef, pork, goat’s meat, even chicken. My favorites among these in Uganda were definitely goat and pork, and many a weekend night found me taking a brief break from research to enjoy some of the local delicacy with a cold one. I’ve been working on this recipe for a little over a year now, and I think I’ve got it tweaked to where it tastes enough like East Africa that it’s worth a try on the Blog-b-cue.
This is the basic marinade recipe that could be used with 1.5-2 lbs. of any of the above-named meats, boneless and cubed like stew meat:
1 lemon or 2 T. juice
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/8 t. cardamom
1/8 t. cayenne
1/8 t. coriander
1/4 t. cumin
2 cloves garlic
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. salt
Combine everything and stir it up well before pouring it over the meat in a Ziploc bag. Marinate for at least 1 hour (I did 4-5 hours, but overnight would be ideal). Roast the meat on skewers over low flame for as long as possible without overcooking (read: low and slow for that outside crunch with the juicy center). Serve with salt and piri-piri (liquid or powdered hot stuff) on the side, avocado, tomato, and roasted matooke if possible. Otherwise find an appropriate potato to pair it with and put it on the table next to your favorite beverage.
In Kampala, people who do this nightly make a living at it, and people who own the operations—often called “pork joints” (not what they sound like)—turn a handsome profit. In that context, the flame comes from wood charcoal. If you’re into that, use it. If not, use store-bought charcoal or a gas grill (I’m using regular old Kingsford this evening). That brings us to the defining characteristic of muchomo: beauty lies in the taste bud of the be(er)holder. Actually, my favorite place in Kampala ended up being this joint where my friend Freddie supervised and instructed the cooks to roast the meat halfway and then fry it up with onions and spices to finish it off. Yum.
This has gone over well with Ugandan palettes. I’m trying it for the first time tonight with a group of Tanzanian musicians. Like the recipe? Try it without the wet ingredients as a rub or send me your variations and improvisations in the comments! I’d love to take a few of these ideas back, as the home muchomo provides as much leisurely fun in Uganda as the backyard barbecue does here.
2 responses to “Muchomo”
So my dear friend had some useful critique for me on this. When he tasted it, he said, “it’s half cooked.” I had not left the meat on the grill long enough for the fat to break down and render. It was too chewy and not crunchy enough on the outside to be true muchomo. Make sure if you’re grilling that you keep some ash (or matooke peels, ideally) handy to cool down the heat so you can leave the meat on long enough. That way the fat will render, coating the small pieces and cooking a nice, crunchy exterior onto a still moist interior. Too hot a grill and it’ll dry out. Too cool and the fat won’t break down. Enjoy!
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