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Ugali (also known as nsima or pap) is a type of cornmeal porridge made in East Africa. Ugali is sometimes made from other flours, such as millet or sorghum flour, and is sometimes mixed with cassava flour. It is cooked by mixing it with boiling water or milk until it reaches a stiff or firm dough-like consistency.
In Kenya, ugali is one of the most common dishes you can find. Served with meat or mashed vegetables, it is practically the national dish. It is found throughout – for example in South Africa it is called pap, and in Zimbabwe, it is called sadza. Regardless of what it’s called, ugali forms the backbone of traditional Kenyan cuisine.
Ugali is one of those few dishes that does not require the use of utensils. Pinch a small lump of it with your hand and roll into a ball. Using the thumb, make a depression in the centre, scoop the stew, and eat.
Contrary to popular belief, ugali is not a tasteless filler. Starchy yes, but tasteless? Not at all! It has a mild popcorn-like taste. Its flavour can also be accentuated by adding salt or butter. Some communities add pumpkins too. It isn’t a complete meal by itself; it is served with meat or fish stew, vegetables, and sour milk with kachumbari.