Oluwombo or luwombo is a traditional dish of Uganda. It is both a royal dish and a fairly common dish cooked especially during the holidays. It is said to have been created in 1887 by the personal chef of Kabaka Mwanga, a king who ruled the kingdom of Buganda at the end of the 19th century.
The dish consists of beef or chicken with vegetables like potatoes and carrots, ground nuts wrapped or any of your choice in banana leaves and steamed to perfection with just the right amount of salt, oil and spices. It is considered a special dish for many reasons including the way it is presented wrapped in leaves like a gift. In some variations, smoked fish is added to the beef/chicken.
People at the age of 35 and above prefer Luwombo than fast food which is left to the youth but what the benefit of this steamed food in the banana leaf?
Unique mixture of sauce and a variety of ingredients enveloped in a banana leaf and then steamed over a fire for hours has all nutrients with no cholesterol form cooking oils as the dish is just steamed with banana leaf sheathing and the steaming creates a delicious aroma very specific to only luwombo.
People, especially the alcoholics who fear the effects of too much alcohol, run to the luwombo dishes to get the full nutrients, which they hope counteracts the alcohol action on their internal organs and cures the nostalgic feeling.
Ugandans find themselves wanting to partake it in and uplift Ugandan culture and tradition. Food plays an important role in this.
In a Kiganda home in central Uganda, luwombo would make an appearance on the menu at any function.
Today, due to the great amount of time and labor required to prepare luwombo, it’s made less frequently inside the home.
Instead, many people are turning to restaurants, for the traditional and nutritious dish.
Above all, luwombo is a treat. Once the sauce and ingredients are contained and cooked within the banana leaf, the hungry customer eagerly anticipates the unwrapping.
It is like the unveiling of the bride.
How to make chicken luwombo
1. If you are using a charcoal stove, begin the process of heating your coals so when you are ready to cook, the stove will be hot.
2. Pour 1 liter (4 ¼ cups) of water into the base of your cooking pot, then line the pot with four banana leaves. When it comes time to place the prepared luwombo in the pot, they will sit atop the leaves, ensuring that they do not come in direct contact with the hot water.
3. Set four more leaves aside until cooking time.
4. Spread the remaining six banana leaves out on a flat surface.
5. Mix the chicken pieces, ½ liter (2 cups) of water, Royco seasoning, garlic, salt, carrot, ginger, tomato and onion together.
6. Separate the mixture into six individual portions and place those portions in the center of each banana leaf.
7. Take hold of the edges of a banana leaf and gather them together, creating a pouch to hold the mixture.
8. Tie string around the top of the pouch, leaving extra space in the pouch for the mixture to steam.
9. Repeat this process with the other five banana leaves and the remaining ingredients.
10. Place all of the wrapped leaves in your lined pot. Use the four leaves you set aside to line the top of the pot, then cover the pot with the lid, or other saucepan if the pot is too full for the lid.
11. Place the pot on top of the stove and steam for six hours.
12. After six hours, remove the luwombo and serve as is – unwrapping the dish is a part of the dining experience!
Recipe note: Fish, mushrooms or nuts can be substituted for the chicken. If you decide to cook a variety of luwombo, place different colored strings around each wrapped leaf so you can identify which kind it is.
Luwombo will always be the best dish for lunch and dinner.