Though I found cooking classes pretty much everywhere I looked in Southeast Asia (e.g. Bali, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand), I discovered in India that they tended to cluster around a few tourist-friendly cities (like Udaipur and McLeod Ganj). When I got to Nairobi and looked for the same, I turned up empty. I’m not sure whether that results from a lack of interest in African cooking, or simply a lack of development in that segment of the tourist market.
In any event, I was amused to discover a cooking class of sorts—more of a cooking lesson—available right outside the gates of our campground in Jinja, Uganda. On our day off after rafting, in addition to resting our sore, sunburnt bodies, I signed up for a chapati-making lesson at the immodestly-named: Bujagali Chapati Company.
The East African chapati closely resembles its cousin in India, the parantha, a chapati that’s lightly fried in oil. In Uganda the chapati is frequently rolled up with a vegetable omelette, popularly known as a rolex (apparently short for “rolled eggs”), and reminds me of the Hot Kati Roll I had in Kolkata (without the chicken curry of course).
The cooking lesson started with making the dough: 2kg of white flour with 3 “cups” of water and a handful of salt—which makes enough for 20-30 chapatis. To my eyes, their cups resembled about one and a half US cups, so your mileage may vary. The mixture is kneaded until the dough becomes uniform.
After letting the dough rest for a short while, they demonstrated the technique for forming the correct size ball per chapati. First rub a little bit of vegetable oil on the hands. Then squeeze a handful dough in a fist so it comes out in a ball between the curled index finger and thumb. Once it’s about the size of an egg or a golf ball, pinch it off at the bottom.
The ball is rolled out, a spoon of oil is put on a hot cast iron skillet (theirs heated by charcoal) and the circle of dough is put on to cook with another teaspoon or two of oil on top. The chapati is flipped and spun until cooked through—with light brown spots on both sides.
They cooked the omelette on the same skillet, a combination of egg, shredded cabbage, onion, and tomato. The omelette is flipped, the chapati is laid on top (to warm up) and then both are rolled together—usually within a page torn from an old newspaper. I couldn’t help but add avocado to mine. Delicious!