Whose corn is better?

Recently I traveled into the African continent, in particular Zambia and Tanzania. While in Lusaka, Zambia, I noticed that many stew or curry like dishes came with nshima. While I didn’t get the opportunity to try nshima, a friend of mine claimed it put South African mieliepap (or pap) to shame. Then in Tanzania, ugali popped up. A friend insisted that it tasted better than pap. Seeing that ugali was on offer in Tanzania, and was the East African equivalent to nshima, I definitely had to try it.

Ugali                                                                                                                                                                                                  Source: Kenyan Cafe and Cuisine

As pap, nshima  and ugali are staple food each respective country these foods aren’t very tasty on their own, as they are meant to fill you up, and normally taste like the food you are dipping it in. So friends exclaiming that ugali and nshima were better than pap fascinated me. Furthermore, both pap and ugali were products of maize (or corn), so how different could they taste?  Pap is made from mielie meal and ugali is made from maize flour (or cornflour). Essentially, mielie meal is more course than maize flour. When “investigating” friends mentioned that the reason ugali tasted better than pap was because cassava was added and the ugali was steamed.

South African mielie pap                                                                                                                                           Source: Sihle Mgobozi

So here I was, excited to try ugali for the first time and have my mind-blown. But as they say, never meet your heroes. The chicken curry that came with the ugali was delicious but the ugali tasted just like pap. There was no tingling of the tastebuds, no “aha” moment. Just a smoother, firmer, less sticky version of pap (to give you an idea, pap tastes like polenta with no seasoning). Quite anti-climatic. Nevertheless, I will find that “amazing” ugali and now I have an excuse to go back to Lusaka and Dar es Salaam. Maybe it’s the water 😉


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