“I purchase two buckets of ibiraha every morning, but you can’t get any by 2pm”!
I was with four friends when we were told this by a restaurant owner near Huye campus, my campus.
Although ibiraha is not a rare commodity in a student community like mine, if you know how delicious ‘Ibiraha’ are, you know how bad “Ibiraha byashize” (no Ibiraha left ) sounds.
‘Ibiraha’ – the shortened version of a word that I will not attempt to spell (you too, would not, if you knew it) – are a samosa-faced snack that, instead of meat, is filled with mashed potatoes in a chapatti-like wrap.
I became fanatical about ‘Ibiraha’ during my freshmen year, this time in Kigali. Some classmates couldn’t help but boycott some boring classes and pay Kamizo a visit, a renowned ibiraha-maker at the time.
I align my experience of ‘Ibiraha’ with students, because I know how relatable it is if you ever went to Huye or Gikondo campuses, or any other out-of-town secondary school.
The thing about ibiraha is not just in the eating: they give this feeling that shrinks any self-absorbed etiquette that, especially sophomore girls like me, feel they need to carry. My four friends and I, the biggest ibiraha-eaters I know, never sit or carry a plate when eating.
“I just enter and invade the basket, wrap one in a serviette, and start eating. Nobody around seems to care, and it feels very comfortable,” one of them jokes.
The restaurant I mentioned above is my new favorite ibiraha place in Huye campus. It is a place where dating couples, groups of friends and classmates, classy and duff, mature and young, go and surround baskets of warm triangular-shaped, savoury-filled canapés.
If you have never tasted ibiraha, I am happy to appease your worries about the price. They are the cheapest snacks ever. The average price ranges from Rwf50 – 150 (USD 5 -15 cents), given the size or ingredients. Any pocket size can afford them.
If you know how to make pastries, save your money. Just buy potatoes, add spices you like, smash them, wrap them up in your pastry, soak in oil until they look delicious and boom! Enjoy!
By the way, ibiraha can be noble too (ignore the students’ cheap “stand-eating”). Serve them filled with chick peas or white pea/ navy bean, garnished with yoghurt, tamarind and green chutney, chopped onions, coriander, and masala or tomato sauce, and see how classic they look!
The standard shape of ibiraha is triangular but I recently learnt that they can be half-moon or cone -shaped – I am yet to try those new shapes!
Dear eater, do not confuse ibiraha and samosas in Rwanda.
To be called ‘ibiraha’ they should have mashed potatoes inside.
If it is meat, peas, vegetables or eggs, then they are more popularly called samosas.
I am yet to try them all to see how ibiraha will continue to stand as a palette favorite. Till further notice, stick to ibiraha!