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East Africann recipe: Omena

East Africann recipe: Omena


For many years, tribes in East Africa that live near the shores of freshwater lakes like Lake Victoria have relied on omena (also known as dagaa) as their primary source of protein. Local populations have been catching and preserving these little fish using conventional means for centuries. Omena was frequently sun-dried or smoked as a technique of preservation, enabling it to be enjoyed throughout the year, especially during times when fresh fish was less readily available.

Omena's historical significance extends beyond its use as food. It has been crucial in facilitating trade and cross-cultural interaction between people living inland and those on the coastlines and lakeshores. Omena gained popularity over time and became valued as a component in a variety of recipes that showcase the region's varied culinary environment.

Preparation Time

45 minutes


Ginger paste

Curry powder

Turmeric powder

Chili powder 


Tomatoes (chopped)

Garlic (minced)

Vegetable oil 

Dried omena (dagaa)

Onion (chopped)

Fresh cilantro or parsley 

Lemon wedges 


  • Rinse the dried Omena in water to remove any dirt from it.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat for shallow frying.
  • Place the Omena in batches in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes until golden brown.
  • Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
  • Heat small oil in a separate pan and add the chopped onion, sauté until they are translucent.
  • Add the minced garlic, ginger paste and chopped tomatoes to the onions.
    • Add the curry powder, turmeric powder, chili powder and salt to the mixture and stir.
    • Add the fried Omena to the mixture, gently mix everything and allow to cook.
    • Remove and garnish with the cilantro or parsley and then serve with rice, ugali and more.