In Kampala, there are residents who will do things that could be regarded as a little too unusual all for the love of good food. It could be regarded as a little eccentric for a person to drive all the way from Kamwokya in the north of Kampala to the centre of the city in search of the perfect Molokony (cow’s hoof).
The most visited venue where the dish is served is The Pub on Dewinton Road, just opposite the National Theatre. The dish itself is made of long boiled hoof from a cow. Add salt and spices, plus requisite time it should spend on the fire and you have yourself a meal.
Molokony is cooked in a slow cooker. It needs a long time to be on the fire so it’s best to start the process in the morning. By 11am, it should be ready. The bestmolokony is tender and it can be detached from the bone with the slightest flick of your tongue.
Molokony has been a Kampala delicacy for a long time. But it is not just a Ugandan thing. In different parts of the world, it is known as a delight not to be ignored on a list of favourite foods. As far away from Kampala as Italy, cow’s hoof is eaten with relish.
At The Pub, you just walk through the narrow entrance and past the tall bar stools to the back of the tiny establishment. The bar tender will not stop; he is used to the traffic coming in every day with many of the clients asking formolokony.
“Molokony is our main specialty,” says Steven Tumusiime, the manager of The Pub. “Many people come in from across the city and for that reason; we have to make it the best. No wonder that many believe we do it best.”
You will not wait long after you place your order. To while the short minutes away, you can catch up on the latest in the premier football leagues in Europe showing on the flat screen TV on the wall. Then your order will arrive and everything else will be relegated to after the meal.
The soup is one strong feature of the dish. It is probably what makes so many people keep on coming back for more. It is the aroma and the taste it leaves in your mouth that reminds you of a thousand different roasts on a carnival night. The marrow inside the wide bone is usually left for last.
Different grown people will be seen sucking on a hug piece of bone, soup flowing down their hands and yet they will appear not to mind. They are among people who understand.
Soup is another reason many older Kampala residents used to enjoy the dish. It was said to have medicinal properties to cure gout. The rest of Kampala caught on and started eating molokony as a major date. There are those who enjoy it as a status symbol; just to be seen eating what all the cool kids are eating.
Conversation in the dimly-lit high-ceilinged roof is typical of Kampala’s denizens. The decibels start rising as the minute hand moves away from the hour of noon. By 1pm, the place is almost full with the conversation shifting from one subject to another as they suck at their bones.
“I think the way we cook it is our main strength,” Tumusiime says at the counter, as he receives clients. It is rush time; lunch time is here and there are many people to satisfy.
Molokony goes for 7,000 UGX at The Pub. This is decidedly dear but for a place that draws its clients from near and far, it is a fair price. In other places around Kampala, the dish can be found at prices ranging from 2,000 UGX to 5,000 UGX. If you do not go to The Pub, you can find molokony in the St Balikuddembe market area or around the different restaurants on Luwum Street.
Finding fast food is in Kampala is as easy as looking to the left or right side of any road. Finding a good local meal is a bit of a trick. Kembabazi, in Naguru, has always been synonymous with healthy local food.
The company started in 1985, in Wandegeya, and through the years moved to a number of locations – including the City Square where Kembabazi (then named: Kembabazi Burger Queen) was one of the pioneer burger places in the city. However, even while specialising in burgers they maintained their core service of local food.
Today, Naguru is their permanent home. Driving down Naguru Hill you can catch site of Lake Victoria in Luzira and Kembabazi, although not directly in site of this view, does benefit from the cool lake breeze. You might not need any ambience to enjoy a meal but the airy feel lent by the big gardens and large windows at Kembabazi Catering Centre doesn’t hurt. A guest can sit in the gardens or in any of the four dining cottages. As you enter, two of the small ones – Janie’s on the left and Kwezi’s on the right – are semi-private and add to the relaxed atmosphere.
Meals are served right from 7am till midnight with breakfast from7am to 11am. This is a full English breakfast with katogo and kigere or molokony (cow leg) – both known alternatives to the ‘hair of the dog’. The breakfast buffet costs 10,000 UGX. Early birds know that after 9am katogo is impossible to find in most places in town but the chef confirms that it is available all day.
Meals are mostly boiled and steamed but boiled doesn’t mean bland food in pale coloured soup. Everything looks – and tastes – good. Chef Bosco Mudedya who has been cooking for 10 years – seven of those at Kembabazi , is happy to elaborate on the menu.
He says that most of the food is steamed and boiled and thus healthier. The lunch buffet is popular with many people manoeuvring through Kampala’s lunch time traffic to make it to Naguru. The cost is 20,000 UGX and consists of kigere, kalo, katogo, steamed vegetable rice, sweet potatoes, irish parsley, steamed pumpkin, posho, matooke and chapatti.