Yep, you read that right, pasted chicken; and I promise it’s not some sort of cruel joke. In fact I wouldn’t judge you if you don’t think much of this dish because you have never tried it, I had exactly the same reaction when someone suggested I try it out, because my thinking was “okay, pasted fish I understand, pasted beef sounds good, but who the heck pastes chicken?” But I have never been so wrong about a dish. In fact, I have never enjoyed kalo in my entire existence like I enjoyed it with this pasted chicken.
Like I said, this dish was suggested by an Instagram follower when I was soliciting for ideas of local dishes around Uganda I should try. I have since come to learn that Olel me Gweno, as it is referred to among the Luo ethnic group (which literally translates to mean pasted chicken) is really popular in the northern parts of Uganda where it’s usually served with Layata (sweet potatoes). I also understand it goes by different names in other parts of the country where it’s relished, like West Nile where it’s served with Kalo.
It is imperative to note that there is no standard preparation method for this pasted chicken. The whole Idea is to cook chicken and paste it with Odi, a simsim (or simsim with g-nut) paste.
The recipe below and steps are what I followed to prepare this delicacy, I am not an expert at this and like with most of the recipes I share here, this was the first time I was trying out this dish. So I must apologise in advance for any possible cultural violations and or spelling mistakes that may appear in this post, I have tried to do a somewhat detailed research about this dish before writing this post, unfortunately google doesn’t seem to know any more than I do on the subject. On which note, I look forward to your contributions (and corrections, if any) on the subject.
So here is my Olel me Gweno, served with Kalo
3 pieces Chicken
1 cup Odi (Simsim paste)
1 Onion, diced
1 Tsp. Paprika
1 Tbsp. oil
Salt and pepper to taste.
- Season the chicken with salt, pepper and Paprika. Traditionally, local chicken breeds are used used to prepare this dish, but because I couldn’t access one at the time, Ugachick Supa came in handy.
- Second step is to smoke/ grill the chicken on a charcoal stove to sort of give it a good smoky flavor and browning that it won’t get from simply boiling it. What I did here was to pan grill my chicken. May have missed out on the smoky flavor but it browned pretty good.
- After browning the chicken, if it’s a tough meat local bird, you may want to boil it in little water for a few minutes till it’s tender. But because I was using a broiler, I just kept it on the gill pan long enough to get cooked.
The advantage of boiling is that you can use the leftover stock/stew after boiling for preparing the Odi instead of using plain water. This helps to enhance the chicken flavor in your Olel.
In the meantime, because I was using a divided pan, I began browning the onions in a drizzle of oil on the other side of the pan. If you’re not using a pan like mine, just wait for the chicken to get cooked and get it off fire. Put a different pan, and brown your onions.
- While browning the onions, mix the odi with stock/ water in ratios of 1:2. It’s advisable to use lukewarm stock/ water instead of hot because hot may give you lumps in your paste. Also, remember to do keep a good thickness while adding your water to the odi. You don’t want your paste too thick but you don’t want it too runny either. After mixing, add to the browned onions and simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes.
- After the paste has simmered for about 5 minutes, you can now proceed to lwelo (which is the act of pasting) your chicken by adding it to the simmering paste.
- Simmer for another three or so minutes, remember the chicken should be essentially cooked by the time it gets to this point, so be careful not to burn the paste, which is why you should be doing this on low-medium heat.
- And there, you have your Olel me Gweno. Feel free to serve it with Kalo or Layata.