Foodie Fix

An Authentic ‘Gisafuriya’ Experience

About 2010 is when the hype about igisafuriya was at its climax, at least that’s when I got to hear about this dish the most.

People that had tasted it, described it as a mixture of potatoes, green bananas and chicken with different vegetables and spices.

I always wondered, why then, was it gaining so much popularity when it sounds just like any regular every-day meal in a Rwandan household!? Apart from the chicken, everything else was typical, but I found it brilliant that the person that came up with this idea not only brought comfort food in a restaurant setting, but also elevated it with chicken, that was seen as festive food for the majority of people, back then.

Igisafuriya‘ gets its name from isafuriya, which is the Kinyarwanda word for a pot, so in the modern culinary term it would be an equivalent of a one pot meal, or a casserole, if you will. Basically a mixture of the staple Rwandan carbs, with peanut sauce and chicken. Some places use both green bananas and potatoes, and others just use one or the other.

With recommendations that I gathered from different people, I recreated a igisafuriya meal in my home, but I had not had an authentic dish made in a restaurant. So, I posted on my Facebook wall and got recommendations to a place that the majority agreed was the most authentic, or best (as some commenters suggested), igisafuriya.

A few days ago, my family and I went to the restaurant: it is located in Samuduha-Kabeza in Kigali, on street KK 215. When you slope on that street into the residential neighborhood, ask for “Kwamunyarwanda” bar, I’m not so sure if that’s the owner’s name but it’s pretty famous so it’s easy to find.

The place has the usual local bar vibe, with the Primus tables and chairs, and most rooms are partitioned (which I personally like), with an outdoor open area.

The bar doesn’t have any menu, so the server came in and verbally told me what they have, but I already knew what I wanted so I placed my order; he explained that the meal serves five (5) adults. I wish I had taken his advice seriously!

Two hours later, he comes with a whole pot of food enough to feed approximately 10 adults… mind you, it was just my husband, our 4-year old daughter (who by this time was fast asleep) and I. Now the name made sense: it was a whole safuriya (pot), in its literal sense.

Baffled, yet thrilled, we gathered the energy and dug in: the potatoes and bananas were soft in the creamy peanut sauce with giant chicken pieces, all perfectly seasoned with a hint of common Rwandan spices, particularly Magi and Royco. The familiarity to the taste buds brought that comfort and the twist they put to it makes you want to keep going for more – it was mellow and delectable.

The meal costs 12,000 RWF which I found fair enough for the portion served. I would, however, recommend that you go there as a group to fully enjoy the entire meal.  We ended up having to pack four takeaway boxes, which isn’t that desirable.

What I didn’t find appealing is the time that we had to wait for the food: 2 hours is just way too long; my husband who is usually the most patient person I know, was already frustrated and ready to go without eating. And the service was not helpful, our server disappeared all the time and we had to go look for him whenever we needed something.

To make your experience better than ours, I would highly suggest that you pre-order beforehand so that you don’t have to wait that long; alternatively, you can go there on a chill day when you are not in a rush and have a hearty talk with your friends/family.

Overall, I would say that the taste of the food compensated for the wait and the fact that I was able to enjoy the authentic flavor, was worthwhile. If I was to rate, I would give this bar/restaurant a 6/10. If the wait was cut short and the service was better, it would easily become my favorite local food hangout.

If you would like to recreate a similar taste, you can follow my recipe. I have received good feedback from people that have tried it, so it will be useful for you.

Gisafuriya Recipe

1kg chicken (cut into preferred pieces)

1kg potatoes (peeled and halved)

1kg green bananas (peeled)

¼ kg peanut flour or peanut butter (3 tablespoons)

4 large tomatoes 

1 large onion

1 clove garlic (minced)

1 tablespoon oil

Salt and pepper to season 

3 Magi cubes

1 tomato paste (tin) 

Spices (your preference)

Instructions 

Step 1: Brown the chicken, add onions and garlic.

Step 2: Add the tomatoes, paste and spices, stir.

Step 3: Add the potatoes and green bananas, then add enough water to cover the food. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Step 4: After 30 minutes, mix the peanut flour with water to make a thick paste and add the mixture to the rest of the food. Bring to a simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Serve hot.

This meal is perfect for Rwandans in the diaspora to showcase some of the cuisine of our country, foreigners that would like to explore local cuisine or as comfort food, when you just need something familiar and flavorful.

{Featured image by Phiona Ninsiima}


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