The Proven Platter – Rwanda, June 2024

Hello Diners!

This month is a “two-fer!” That is, our good works are taking us to India and Rwanda. So, you may have to make a tough decision about which direction to go! I am here to present you with the Proven Platter for Rwanda in support of the Kula Project. They work to eradicate poverty through the development of women entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s coffee communities.

Our last visit to Rwanda (in April) featured Ububobe, a simple eggplant and bean stir-fry that is typical of what would be served in many subsistence farming communities. Most Rwandans only eat meat a couple times a month. But if you travel outside of these communities to perhaps the bustling capital city of Kigali, you can expect to taste a variety of meat-based dishes like Brochettes – skewers of beef, goat, fish, or pork, spiced with chiles and grilled over charcoal with onions or peppers, or Akabenz – dry-fried lime barbeque pork, another specialty of the region.

French colonialists originally introduced these grilled skewers to Rwanda. Now a beloved street food, you’ll find these brochettes/skewers served up from street vendors and restaurants alike, usually with a side of fries and spicy dipping sauce called “Pili-Pili.” In fact, one of the most unexpected places to discover this quintessentially Rwandan dish is at a car wash! Specifically, the Car Wash Grill & Sports Bar, an open-air bar and car wash. There you’ll find patrons knocking back bottles of the local Rwandan home brew, Urwagwa, (beer made from fermented bananas) along with their juicy brochettes, perhaps while waiting for their car to be washed! Let’s fire up the grill and get started!

Rwandan Brochettes

While the typical meat used in these brochettes would be goat, use what you like and what you can find. I was able to source some goat and was glad to try something new to me. In comparing it to lamb I would say it is less gamey. Beef, chicken, lamb, and pork will work. We’ll marinate the skewers for about an hour or so, and then use some of the reserved marinade for a dipping sauce for the fries. Since Pili Pili chiles aren’t available here, use whatever kind of chile/heat you are familiar with.

These are best grilled outdoors, but you can certainly put them under the broiler or bake them in your oven. Since you’ll have the oven on for the sweet potato fries anyway, that might be a good option.

Makes about 8 skewers

2 pounds meat – goat, beef, chicken, or pork, cut into no larger than ½-inch cubes
1 small onion, cut in half – dice one half finely (about ¾ cup), and the other half will be cut in half and separated for the skewers
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 (14-oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 or 2 hot chiles, minced – habanero, Thai-bird chiles, jalapeño, or red Fresno
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Thread the meat cubes and onion slices onto skewers. You may want to soak the skewers in water for half an hour first if you are using wooden ones. Place the skewers on a sheet pan and sprinkle with some salt, the cumin, and the paprika.

Make the marinade by combining the crushed tomatoes, diced onion, garlic, chile, olive oil, and salt. I gave this a very quick pulse in the blender for a smoother marinade, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Pour half of the marinade over the skewers and let sit for at least half an hour. Reserve the other half of the marinade for dipping sauce for the fries. Fire up the grill while the skewers are marinating. You could fire up the oven at this time as well if you are baking sweet potato fries or baking your skewers instead of grilling them.

Grill for 8 to 10 minutes turning a few times and brushing with the marinade until done to your liking. If roasting the brochettes, I’d recommend an oven temp of 425 – 450 for a quick hot bake.

Serve with sweet potato fries and perhaps a side of coleslaw. I’m a mayo with my fries kind of a girl, so I swirled some of the reserved dipping sauce into some mayo. Enjoy!

Recipe and photo credit: Linda McElroy