Rwanda – Bloody Grass (Tembele)

by Alkased Mamim

Every morning around the streets in almost all parts of the country, sounds of men and women are heard shouting like “… vegetable, vegetables, cut your bunch for 500 shillings..vegetables, vegetables”, everyone stands out the door waiting for purchasing the green leaves, mostly Tembele.

Our country, Rwanda is located in the eastern part of the African continent. It is bordered by Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, D.R.C Congo to the west and Ethiopia to the north.

Tembele will have a definite different taste to all other green leaves found in our country, like spinach and cabbages, however the taste may be of best or even worse.

It needs some skills knowing how to give people the best taste required to hold the flavor of Tembele dish.

Some people will spot you with superstitious idea like, if you cook Tembele, make sure you don’t change hands while cooking it or stirring, kinda funny ah!, that’s Rwanda.

Let’s consider the followings in order to get the desired Tembele cuisine.


  • 5 Tembele bunches
  • 3 bulb onions
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 garlics, grinned
  • coconut or peanut(not necessary)
  • Oil
  • Salt

Once you’re done with the ingredients, this is how we cook it.

Cooking Steps

  • Prepare Tembele by cutting soft parts of the plant. They include the leaf and prolonged soft part that attaches to the branch.
  • Wash the prepared Tembele and set on cooking pan. Normally we don’t cut Tembele, we cook it as it is.
  • Chop onions and tomatoes, put on top of Tembele, again chop carrots using slicer and add on top of the Tembele.
  • Put salt on top, and add oil as well. Start the cooker and put the pan, cover top and cook for 5 to 7 minutes without opening the top.
  • After the time, open up pan and mix Tembele with the ingredients, do like frying it until all soup is out. This process takes some minutes like 6, so be persistent.
  • Once soup is off, our Tembele will be ready for meal.
  • Here in Rwanda we normally eat Tembele dish with Ugali – a stiff porridge, I don’t know what you will take Tembele with, but enjoy with your family and friends.
Ugali and Tembele
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