I first heard about angara, the most prized dried fish in the West Nile, from my guide up the Rwenzoris. He was an Alur and he talked about how much he missed it. He argued with the other guides, who were from other tribes, that the rest of the fishes he had tried in Uganda had no taste. I wondered to myself what this special fish was as I dragged myself up the mountain, since I had not tasted any other fish in my three years in Uganda besides the most common nile perch and tilapia.
Gloria, Paul’s niece, an amazing chef, made angara for us. Angara was preserved in salt, so it was first boiled in water to take away the extra salt. Then, the water was changed, and groundnut paste was mixed in. I was warned that angara had a lot of small bones. That was not a problem for me, because some fish in Hong Kong also have a lot of bones in them, and we steam it whole. But I was told that the Alur people take it to the next level when it comes to picking out fish bones. When they eat the fish, they can pick the bones with their mouth and have bones come out from the two sides of the mouth. Though I did not see this first-hand!
I could not wait to try it when Gloria came out of the kitchen with the angara. It was amazing! The angara added so much magic to the groundnut sauce that I could not stop eating it. It went together so well with millet bread (kalo), or, for me, rice. The fish itself was also delicious. No wonder people in West Nile rave about it!
Salt-dried fish is a very common ingredient in Asia. It is usually fried with vegetables or meat to lend an umami flavor to the dish, or can be eaten on its own with white rice or fried rice. One takes only a very small bite of it every time with a spoonful of rice, and soon the flavor becomes addictive. However, it can come off as too strong or too salty for people who are not familiar with this taste.