malewa dried bamboo shoots


Malewa is a local name in Gishu for edible bamboo shoots in Uganda. The Bamboo shoot is obtained from Mt. Elgon, found along Uganda’s border with Kenya in Mbale District. It is therefore a traditional Ugandan dish that is prepared using bamboo shoots. The bamboo shoots are air-dried and smoked to preserve them and to give them a distinct flavour. Malewa is harvested throughout the year, but especially during the dry season. The cooked malewa is then mixed with groundnut sauce to make a tasty stew which can be enjoyed with Matooke, sweet potatoes or cassava.  Have you ever wondered how the people of Mbale started eating bamboo shoots, let’s have a look at the origin of malewa below;


According to the Bagisu Malewa was discovered during the Mt. Elgon clashes in the 16th and 17th centuries.  A few migrants who came from South Africa sought refuge in the caves of the mountain Elgon. In search and need of food for survival, they discovered the young bamboo shoots which they discovered were edible.

Originally bamboo shoots were smoked before cooking. They later discovered a roasting technique that eliminated smoking. Currently cooked bamboo shoots malewa is commonly mixed with ground-nut sauce.

The malewa dish later attracted the attention of neighbouring towns like Pallisa, Kapchorwa, and the neigboring district of Tororo. Malewa is currently cooked and eaten at hotels and restaurants in Kampala today. The malewa bamboo shoots have a taste similar to that of forest mushrooms.

Encroachment of the mountainside by habitants and farmers has led to diminishing levels of bamboo shoots harvested from the mountains which are a threat to the food resources of the Bagisu people.

Ingredients for Malewa dish:

  • Malewa (smoked bamboo shoot)
  • Water
  • Soda ash or Rock Salt or Baking soda
  • Salt
  • 6 tablespoons of Groundnut paste

Preparing the Dry Malewa Bamboo Shoots for Cooking.

  • When you buy your dry malewa from the market, it will be brown in colour and will look like a dry piece of banana fibre.
  • Soak the dry malewa overnight or for 1-2 hours to make the outer layer soft.
  • Peel off the outer layers and boil the malewa bamboo shoots for 30 minutes over medium heat
  • Drain all the water. Place the malewa on a chopping board and cut off the hard joints of the bamboo. Throw away the hard joints and retain the soft middle part
  • Divide the soft part into smaller malewa pieces. Wash the pieces thoroughly and repeatedly until clean water comes off the soft malewa.


In a clean cooking pot, add water, rock salt or soda ash, and mix well to dissolve the rock salt or soda ash.  Add your soft pieces of malewa, and boil for 30 minutes over moderate heat.

Cooking the groundnut stew

Mix 6 tablespoons of groundnut paste with water and stir until it fully dissolves in the water.  Warm water will dissolve the paste faster than cold water.

 Add 1- 2 medium cups of water to the solution and place it on medium to low heat.  And start stirring frequently to prevent the groundnut paste from sticking to the bottom of your cooking pot. Note that the ground nuts will immediately start burning after they stick to your pan.

Cook the stew until it starts producing oil on top, you can now cut in your onions and add salt to taste.


Add your cooked malewa to the groundnuts stew and let it simmer together for 10 to 20 minutes on low heat to let the flavours mix. 

 This malewa groundnut stew is served and enjoyed with matooke, potatoes cassava, Rice or Posho by the Bagisu in Mbale.

Bamboo shoots may contain some harmful elements so you should cook them properly until they are ready.

  1. Bamboo shoots have anti-cancer properties
  2. Rich in phenolic acid which protects against heart complications
  3. High in dietary fibre which helps boost digestion and aid in weight loss
  4. When crushed and taken as juice, bamboo shoots can cure ulcers and stomach complications.

If You Liked This Ugandan Cuisine; You Could Also Like Nsenene Grasshopper Recipe

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