Alestes Baremose fish species commonly referred to as Angara in West Nile region is a delicacy among the Alur speaking people in Nebbi, Zombo and Pakwach districts.
The love for Angara has spread across all districts in West Nile region and other parts of Uganda and even from Ugandans abroad (it is often a commodity they travel back with). Not only is it delicious, it is nutritious. The Angara fish is said to also help treat malnutrition in children. Children are normally encouraged to drink Angara soup because of the salt in it. Many also believe one can easily get protein and carbohydrates when fed on Angara. It is also specially preserved for elders and visitors and some use the fish for treating small pox.
Angara is only found on Albert Nile (also called Mobutu Nile, located in the upper Nile River in North-Western Uganda) possibly because it is less saline than Victoria Nile. It is for this reason that most people traveling to and from West Nile region make stop-over in Pakwach town near Pakwach Bridge, along the Albert Nile in Pakwach district to buy the salted fish. The fish often sold in open markets and via street vending. You can also more than likely get a taste of it at any restaurant or hotel in town.
Interestingly, girls or boys who are born in Pakwach are often nicknamed Nyar Angara (meaning child of Angara). Others are called Wod Angara meaning son of Angara because of its delicacy. It is also locally believed that if you do not eat Angara, then you cannot be intelligent.
Angara is normally caught using a standard net. It is then cut vertically making a large parting in the middle, just like a leaf. After cutting, it is then dried using salt into what is locally called ‘bungu.’
The salt acts as a preservative but if it is not applied well, the fish will go bad very fast. After successful salting and drying, it is then ready for the market. In the markets across West Nile, Angara goes for shs5, 000 to shs28, 000, a piece depending on the size. Since it is cherished traditionally; people strive to buy it, even at Shs20, 000.
When preparing Angara, the ingredients should be Angara fish itself, tomatoes, onions, cooking oil and peanut butter. The fish is first soaked in cold water to remove the excess salt from the water. Alternatively, one can also brush the salt off the fish.
After that, it is cut into different pieces depending on the cooking style one chooses whether fried or boiled. In the case of boiling, papyrus cuttings should be put at the bottom of the sauce pan and fish added then water and other ingredients.
When it is boiled, the fish is then added into another sauce pan, the papyrus cuttings removed and cooked until tender. It is then pasted with peanut butter. If you opt the frying method, onions, tomatoes and other spices are fried in cooking oil. When ready, water is added.
However, with Angara, you need to be an expert in sorting out the bones as they are many and quite tiny.
Some parts of the fish are bony while others fatty. Novices can spend a lot of time sorting the bones, but experts use their tongue or teeth and you just see the bones coming out-very interesting.
So next time you’re in West Nile (Nebbi, Zombo, and Pakwach) don’t forget to try some of Alur’s finest delicacy: Angara Fish.