Mukene, The Accidental Delicacy

Share This Post

Dear Reader, welcome to this Richara series of blogs; where we share with you the various aspects of Ugandan culture that you would most likely have missed. But we won’t take a chance! Let’s show you our Uganda, so you Experience Unforgettable moments!

Ever heard of ‘Mukene’? It is a term locally used to refer to ‘small silver fish’ or ‘Silver Cyprinid’ or ‘The Lake Victoria Sardine’. This fish is caught from Lakes Victoria and Kyoga, and the role it plays in the Ugandan economy is hugely underrated. While Mukene is not yet exported to Europe or America, the fish is exported to Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. To many fishermen and traders in Uganda, Mukene is a remarkable source of income. Have a walk on any busy market day and you will find the fish finely arrayed in hips of various sizes. One can purchase Mukene from as low as five hundred (500) Uganda Shillings, to as high as they want. The fish is also available well packaged in supermarkets, and shops, in full form, or even powdered.

Mukene is one of the three small pelagic fish species caught from Lake Victoria including Ragoogi (scientifically named Brycinus Nurse), and Muziri ( Engraulicypris bredoi ). Mukene’s own is (Ratrineobola argentea ). Of the three, Mukene is more popular. This fish is very nutritious with ingredients such as calcium, iron, zinc, and as well other Vitamins.

The locals savor it! And if prepared by a fine chef or a really good Nalongo or Maama Nakato in Kafunda around Kampala or other towns, Mukene becomes that one meal or spice you cannot ignore! Mukene can be eaten as a sauce with foods like Matooke (banana/plantain) and Lumonde (sweet potatoes), or even mixed in another sauce like beans and groundnut paste depending on the culture or local community you find yourself in.

The delicacy has this amazing ability to make you yearn for more – an appetizer and is usually recommended for babies and pregnant women. It is endorsed for its catalytic appeal that makes children pull at plates from the mouths of their mothers, in an effort to gallop the soup! So when we say fish is an underrated delicacy, we mean it. The enjoyment from the locals while they eat it is undeniable, as is evident from their posture as adapted during the meal. Mukene has, however, in the past been looked down upon as a poor man’s meal. Kadongo-Kamu musicians have gone further by composing songs of it, painting scenarios of unhappy wives whose
husbands return home with Mukene. Have you listened to ‘Abasitamira Emere’ by Fred Sebbaale?

You will definitely be entertained. But the narrative around Mukene has over the years changed, as people are now overlooking the fish’s previous reputation for its nutritious values.

An Amazing Fact: Mukene, because of its size, often falls prey to other fishes. So during the day, the fish hides deep in the water and comes out at night when the other fishes are less likely to swim about.

“It is because of this factor that Mukene is also fished in the night. The fishermen lay their nets out, and often encamp them with lights. During the night, you can see these nets out in the lake. When Mukene comes on the water’s surface to prey on the lake flies, that is when they are trapped! Fishing in Mukene is not a job for the
faint-hearted. It is for the brave, and is actually a more loathsome task than any regular fishing, in my opinion.” Amanya Kevin, a tour operator at Travel-Bird Uganda reveals. So whilst this fish barely receives acclaim for its contribution towards Uganda’s economy and fisheries sector as a whole, it has created employment opportunities for many, and has numerous health benefits; the fish also has a down factor, its appalling smell that if left in the hands of a reckless home manager, everything might stink of Mukene! But then again, this is the case as it is with most fish.

In an article titled ‘Mukene, No longer a Poor Man’s Diet’ by the Daily Monitor newspaper, as updated in September 2020, a respondent revealed that Mukene exportation is still a work in progress and that researchers and scientists at Makerere University are still finding ways in which to tame its rather appalling smell.

  1. Have you tasted Mukene in any meal yet? Which part of Uganda were you in and how was it prepared? If not, maybe it is time you tasted a Mukene meal!
  2. Do you have Mukene or this silverfish in your community or country? If so; Do you eat it? how do you prepare Mukene meals?

We would love to hear your response. Don’t hesitate to comment or reach out. In the meantime, let us take you through our collection of Mukene experiences as shown in the images below. Enjoy.

You cannot copy content of this page