Culture

Renowned for Her Rat Meat Speciality, a DRC Grandmother Inspires a New Generation of Chefs

 

Article Highlights

 
In Kirumba, a village in the Lubero territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, rat meat is becoming a popular dining choice. “When we have guests, we can wow them by serving rat meat sauce with fufu,” says Masika Matumo, 70, a local grandmother for whom this cuisine is a specialty. Merveille Kavira Luneghe, GPJ DRC
Democratic Republic of Congo

In Kirumba, rat meat is becoming a more common food option. One local grandmother, Masika Matumo, is renowned for her rat meat cooking, and her house has often become a place of pilgrimage for many young people yearning to learn her culinary skills.

KIRUMBA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO — DRC is home to more than 300 tribes, and each offers its own unique culinary delights.

For the Nande tribe in the Lubero territory in North Kivu province, rat meat is a common meal.

“When we have guests, we can wow them by serving rat meat sauce with fufu,” says Masika Matumo, 70, referring to field rats. Rats found living in houses are not considered suitable meat sources.

expand image
expand slideshow

Masika Matumo, 70, known as Tate, a grandmother in Kirumba, heats a pot of oil in which to cook rat meat. Matumo, who is always surrounded by children when she serves her rat meat sauce, prepares the dish with leeks, garlic, celery, tomatoes and an array of spices.

Merveille Kavira Luneghe, GPJ DRC

Matumo, known as Tate, meaning grandmother in Kiswahili, is loved by the children in the village, who often trap and collect rats for her. In return, she prepares fufu and serves her specialty — rat meat sauce.

Mwamini Zawadi, 14, says she likes staying close to Matumo, because she wants to learn her methods for preparing delicious rat meat dishes.

“I’m excited to learn everything, because I dream of one day starting a restaurant where people will enjoy rat meat,” Zawadi says, with a smile on her face.

In Kirumba, people love rat meat. It is very tender and comes cheap. Three rats cost 500 Congolese francs (38 cents).

How to catch, prepare and cook rats
Rat hunting in the village is done by young people. They track rats in the field and then work to dislodge them from their hideouts.

Typically, a group of youngsters makes weird noises, using their feet to hit the ground in unison and with force. Then, terrified rats come out of their hiding places and get caught in traps handcrafted by young people in the village.

expand slideshow

A group of young boys and men in Kirumba track field rats. In an effort to chase the rats out of their hiding places, they make loud noises and stomp their feet on the ground in unison.

Merveille Kavira Luneghe, GPJ DRC

The group plants handmade snares throughout the field, so that when a rat does leap out of its hiding place, they can herd the creature into the trap.

Merveille Kavira Luneghe, GPJ DRC

When there’s success, the next step is to prepare the rat for cooking.

Merveille Kavira Luneghe, GPJ DRC

The group gets a fire going, prepares the rat by removing the entrails and burning the hair off, skewers the meat, and cooks it over the hot coals.

Merveille Kavira Luneghe, GPJ DRC

Rat meat is a popular dish in Kirumba. The meat is tender and the cost is cheap — three rats are 500 Congolese francs, or 38 cents — if not free.

Merveille Kavira Luneghe, GPJ DRC

Once the rats are trapped, the next step is to prepare the meat.

First, the rats’ entrails are removed and their hair is burned off.

Next, the rats must be thoroughly cleaned. Then the cooks prepare seasonings such as leeks, garlic, celery and tomatoes. Also, they use soy, cooking oil, salt and water.

After the oil is heated, the rats are dipped into it. After the rats are well cooked, seasonings and a little bit of water are added to make a sauce. Fufu, a doughy mixture of cassava or maize flour and water, is a popular dish to accompany rat meat sauce.

“Panya iko butamu sana,” which means “rat meat is very delicious,” says Matumo, after sharing the meals with those little sons and daughters.

expand image
expand slideshow

Masika Matumo, 70, and children from the neighborhood share a dish of rat meat sauce with fufu. Matumo says she dreams of one day opening a restaurant where people will enjoy rat meat, and where she will share her cooking with all.

Merveille Kavira Luneghe, GPJ DRC