Rolex – “The Short Story Long”
Have you really been to Los Angeles, if you’ve not eaten at In-N-Out?
Or is it McDonald’s double cheeseburger that leaves you savoring in chef’s goodness?
It’s easy to see why dishes from parts of Europe, Asia, the Americas and other parts of the world, have left their lasting mark on the list of food options in restaurants around the world.
Sadly, not so many African dishes have attracted similar attention yet, including Uganda’s variety of foods.
The “Pearl of Africa”, as she is often referred to, is home to over 56 ethnic groups; a melting pot of cultural diversity with an assortment defined in folk dance, music, tradition, and language.
Every group (or tribe as we call them) has a distinct type of food and this speaks to the fecundity of our land and the ability of its soils to literally grow almost anything seeded.
The differences, however, are only but identification blocks.
There’s a lot that brings us together as Ugandans; one of the more popular things being the quick to prepare, anytime, yummy snack, popularly known as the Rolex (pronounced “Lol-ex” by a big chunk of the local population).
With a quick ride through the Capital, Kampala, or a stroll along the streets in any of the towns, it is impossible to miss the sight of a stall marketing this popular food choice. Some are really hilarious!
It’s easy to see that Ugandans and East Africans, in general, love the Rolex for so many reasons, mainly its combination of convenience, inexpensiveness (less than a dollar on the street) and its re-inviting taste.
It also got Trevor Noah talking
Does this explain the excitement and smiles on the faces of Business Class passengers aboard the newly revived Uganda Airlines, as the delicacy was added to the carrier’s menu?
I guess the Rolex’s fame is why the State Minister for tourism Kiwanda Godfrey Ssuubi once remarked that it was worthy of adding to the country’s list of tourist attractions.
Unfortunately, unlike many continental dishes, Rolex is yet to attain an international reputation beyond Uganda’s borders as Italian dishes like Pasta and Pizza.
Nevertheless, it certainly is a darling in East Africa. Even in the absence of roadside vendors in Rwanda, the snack can still be ordered from some of the uptown restaurants.
Back home in Uganda, it has amassed popularity; and there is actually an annual festival (four years running) in August celebrating this great invention.
It’s not the famous wristwatch we are talking about. Rolex is a fast-food in Uganda.
The expansion of a middle-class that fancies the more exotic eating houses has influenced slight tweaks in the Rolex to include ground beef or minced chicken. It is now also well packaged and served in top restaurants, big brand hotels, and safari lodges.
Many Ugandans will, however, tell you that the Rolex never tastes better than when grabbed off the dusty street from one of those ram-shackled kiosks.
It might be the little magic from the hands of “Muna”, a phrase mockingly used in reference to a man from the Busoga region in Eastern Uganda, where the invention is said to have originated; a title often used by a vast majority of Ugandans when referring to the local Rolex and Chapati makers.
Origin of Uganda’s Rolex
Here’s what the word Rolex means by Ugandan standards:
A combination of an egg omelet and vegetables wrapped in a salty tortilla-like unleavened flatbread called a “Chapati” which is similar to bread like phulka, shabaati, roti, safati or roshi from Asia. Chapati is usually circular in shape and is very easy to prepare.
While there are various stories recounting the “Eureka-moment” of this great invention, the name itself (Rolex) is said to have emerged out of a mispronunciation of the phrase “rolled eggs”, at a time when this odd snack first appeared on the streets of Wandegeya, a locality adjacent to Makerere hill, where one of Africa’s highest-ranked universities is found.
It’s said that the Rolex’s wild popularity was largely driven by the students’ desire for a quick meal due to meager meal budgets but also the short breaks between the different lectures.
“Rolled eggs” related to the method of preparation which involved the rolling of the Chapati and the omelet together.
The golden Recipe for making your Rolex
If you visit or get to live in Uganda, make sure to grab a taste of its many foods but if you must choose one, do not miss the celebrity dish; this famous delicacy.
But what if you had the special recipe to prepare your own Rolex whenever you needed it? Here’s a summary of what you will need with a special twist to the way I like it best.
First things first! The quick tip to note: Do not go all crazy with the ingredients and do not pack too much into the eggs. Slice your vegetables into very small pieces to give you an easy quick cook. Remember it’s Uganda’s version of fast food so it has to be quick.
The 10-item starter pack for preparing your Uganda Rolex
- 1 or 2 Chapatis depending on your appetite haha
- 2 eggs on average. But again, you can add more if really hungry
- ¼ tablespoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of subtly diced tomato
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped red onions
- 1 tablespoon of finely sliced green pepper
- A heat sauce, of course
- Frying pan, or something you can fry the Rolex in
- 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
- A plate, aluminum foil or something to place the finished product. In Uganda, it would often be some old Newspapers, haha!
Optional Additional: A small handful of finely sliced cabbage (I personally never eat mine with cabbage. I just don’t like how busy the munching gets with cabbage in there. But that’s just what I prefer).
I, however, love to add some hot sauce in there and my Rolex guy needs no reminder each time I head over to his stall to order for one. I have probably said to him “tekamu ka kamulali” (add a little bit of hot sauce) enough times.
So how do we cook the Rolex?
Step 1: Heat your frying pan for about 60 seconds and then add a tablespoon of cooking oil, and let it heat up as well.
Step 2: It’s now time to introduce the Chapati. Heat both sides of the Chapati in the frying pan for about 45 seconds per side, to make it warm, soft and with a goldish brown color. You want to keep this short so that the Chapati does not get tough and crispy like Mexican tortilla. You can then place the properly-fried Chapati on the plate or aluminum foil.
NOTE: If you are making a couple of Rolexes or making a Rolex with more than 1 Chapati, it is wise to do Step 2 for all the Chapatis before proceeding to mix the eggs.
Step 3: For every Rolex, you will want to mix the eggs in a small container or bowl with the salt, tomato, onion, and green pepper. Beat the mixture up very well and ensure the ingredients all mingle. Mix those ingredients really well until they look like some crazy but special Ugandan friendliness.
Step 4: Add a tablespoon of cooking oil to the already heated frying pan and pour in the egg mixture allowing it to spread out quickly. Cook both sides of the omelet until it is firm enough to flip. Usually, this should last about 45 seconds or less, depending on how hot your frying pan is.
Step 5: Place the cooked Chapati on top of the omelet and scoop it out, placing it on the aluminum foil flipped upside, with the Capati at the bottom and the omelet on top.
Step 6: At this stage, it is for most almost ready to roll, but legends have to add some raw tomatoes for an extra juicy taste. This explains the origin of the statement “Nyanya Mbisi” a phrase that loosely translates to mean “uncooked tomatoes”. Go ahead, add a few circular slices of raw tomato and sprinkle a few grains of salt on top. Think of this as the cherry on the cake.
Optional: As I said before, I would normally squeeze my favorite hot sauce into the mix, which is available in select Ugandan supermarkets. It’s called “UG Kamulali”, Uganda Hot sauce when translated to English. In case you, are interested. This is no advert for them by the way…
Now go ahead and roll that goodness.
You’ll want to let it cool off a bit before you taste its yumminess, but don’t let it get cold.
How to eat Uganda’s Rolex?
There’s really no formula to the Rolex equation but the rule of thumb is to always devour it like an African king or empress; like a BOSS!
Step 1: Put the cutlery far away and out of sight.
Step 2: Do not forget to make your appreciation to the Rolex forefathers (the inventors). Cut the jokes. Say a small prayer.
Step 3: Take a big bite; yes, the first bite must be big enough to send you off into ecstasy
Step4: Lastly, make sure to leave no evidence. Eat, lick, suck everything haha!
For now, I remain yours truly, The Ugandan Tourist!