Eating the Ugandan snack nsenene has been compared to munching on crispy chicken skin. But nsenene never cluck; they chirp. Nsenene is the Luganda word for long-horned grasshopper, which make for a popcorn-like treat in the wet season.
In Uganda’s central region, nsenene is prepared both by vendors and by children and parents at home. Ugandans pluck off grasshoppers’ wings and legs, and then fry the unlucky insects in their own oil with onion, chili, or other spices. The fact that nsenene secrete oil makes them more affordable—locals don’t need to buy cooking oil.
The popular treat is only available for several months each year, during the wet season around May and especially November. Women and children once collected nsenene for their own use, and one tradition called for women to present nsenene to their husbands, who dutifully gifted them a dress in response. But hunting nsenene has increasingly become a profitable industry.
When nsenene emerge in November, men set up traps made from metal drums and corrugated zinc sheets. The hunters leave high-wattage electric bulbs burning through the night; attracted to the light, grasshoppers hit the sheets and fall into the drums. So many grasshopper trappers illegally tap local power grids to light their traps that nearby Ugandans regularly lose power during wet season.
Hunters sell their captured grasshoppers to street vendors and hawkers. Once spiced and fried, the insects sell for around 1,000 Ugandan shillings (about 40 cents) for a few teaspoons. Ugandans pop them into their mouths on the street or at home, and bartenders often sell the fried snack alongside cold beer, much like roasted peanuts in other parts of the world.
Need to Know
During Uganda's rainy season, vendors sell fried nsenene in small plastic bags or from large plastic tubs. You can also find nsenene in nearby countries such as Kenya and Tanzania.