How to Make Spicy Mukene (Silver Fish) Paste at Home

Cheap and nutritious Mukene (silver fish/ silver cyprinid​) made into a rich versatile paste/sauce with aromatics such as garlic, ginger, and scotch bonnets.  Perfect for adding to sauces, stews and vegetables for flavor.  
One of the few food writers I absolutely love is Mandy of Lady and Pups. I love getting lost in her angry accounts of food stories so much that when her book  Escapism Cooking came out I knew I had to get a copy. A few weeks ago I was poring over her book and she was talking about how shrimp paste is essential to Asian cooking. The way she talked about it made me wish I ate shrimp.  I don’t. And shrimp isn’t an easy food to find in landlocked countries,  unless you are willing to ignore the fact that the frozen section in the supermarket is fully stocked.  Anyways what I am trying to say is that a good writer like Mandy will have you making food you never even intended to because that is what I did.
Yes, a few minutes of feeling restless after reading a captivating  paragraph on shrimp paste,  a light bulb idea  hit.  We have an abundance of mukene. So much so, that I have written about it in the past here and here. It is even called the Lake Victoria Sardine on Wikipedia.   What if I made mukene paste/sauce?  So I got to work.
The process  of soaking the mukene,  chopping the aromatics,  frying, blending and simmering made me feel like I was preparing apeta (if you know you know) for  boarding school children. Ah the good old days. But this is not apeta…actually it might be, depending on how you treat it.  To me it’s a multipurpose fish sauce/ paste that will be great with almost anything. Frying some vegetables, add a spoonful of this sauce. Making groundnut stew,  this sauce will be great with it.  I love putting it in noodles and sauteed vegetables. It keeps well due to the high oil and salt content.
How to Make Spicy Mukene (Silver Fish) Paste Recipe
What you will need:
1 C. Mukene (250g)
1 C. Mushrooms, sliced
7 Garlic cloves
4 Large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 stick of green onion/ spring onion/ scallions, roughly chopped
1/4 C. Ginger, roughly chopped
1 Scotch bonnet/chili peppers, roughly chopped
2 Large onions, roughly chopped
1 green pepper, roughly chopped
1 1/2 C. Oil
1/4 C. Salt
1 Tbsp, smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. Black pepper
  1. If you notice, I do not chop the garlic and ginger. I also roughly chop the other ingredients since I will be pureeing them in a blender.
  2. Soaking the mukene helps soften it so that it can absorb flavor as compared to when you cook it dry.
  3. The mushrooms and tomatoes help elevate the umami flavor.
  4. The salt and oil helps preserve the sauce hence their large amount.
  5. Add your spice (chili/ cayenne/ scotch bonnets) depending on the heat you desire.
  6. After adding all the ingredients, the tomatoes will release water and it will become stewy.
  1. Soak the Mukene for 20 minutes in clean water with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Rinse it twice and set aside.
  2. Pour a half cup of oil in a clean pan and put it on meduim heat. Add the garlic, ginger and  scallions. Let them cook in the oil till wilted but not burnt. Remove the ginger, garlic and scallions from the oil and set a side.
  3. In the same oil, Add the rinsed mukene and mushrooms and let them fry for about 10 minutes or until it starts turning golden brown on medium heat.
  4. Add  back the scallions, ginger and garlic and stir well. Next add your salt, chilli/ scotch bonnet (or any spice of your choice), green pepper, onion,  and tomatoes. Let it cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the mukene ‘stew’ from fire and set aside for it to cool down. After cooling (about 20 minutes) Pour the ‘stew’ in the blender with the remaining 1 cup of oil and blend till pureed.
  6. Pour back the blended mukene puree in the same pan and put it back on fire. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for about an hour (or more) until it has completely cooked down (not burnt) to a paste, turned a deep rich brown color and a silky oil is floating on top.
  7. Remove the paste from fire and let it cool. Store in a clean container/bottle for up to two months at room temperature. Stores for longer in a refrigerator.

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Easy Sautéed Mukene

I finally got to share a mukene recipe. Mukene is so versatile it is a kitchen staple in our house. Mukene has gotten a bad name for the longest time and I was part of the craze. Firstly because of the fishy smell, secondly, the tiny bones that may or may not pierce you when you eat and thirdly, the bitter heads. All this is enough to make someone avoid mukene altogether. And I did for most of my child and teenage hood because ‘why cannot we just have real fish?’ was my constant argument. I realized though that it is a matter of perspective. As smelly as it is, mukene is filled with flavor on its own it doesn’t need a lot of ingredients. Plus after reading about its awesomeness here and here, you will be convinced to try it.






Fried Ntula With Mukene Powder

So I am in this dilemma as of the moment. These ntula are called ntula in the local luganda dialect. I cannot call them eggplants because that will change the whole meaning since eggplants are called bilinganya. But that’s not all. There are two types of ntula. The green slightly bitter ones and the white bland ones (which a great for stews because you can work with them anyhow by infusing any flavour or style you desire). Bottom line is that, these darlings will be called ntula until I find out their English name.

I’m sure most of you have had plans in at one point in your life and probably still do. That is a good thing. A week earlier I read an article and I felt it speak to me. We all make plans but in the end, they may work out or may not and that is life. I have learnt to make peace with that fact. This dish is one that I extensively planned in my head but at the last minute, a suggestion to add mukene powder changed everything. And now that I think about it, I realize the dish was actually meant to have mukene.

Among the two kinds I preferred using the green slightly bitter ones because the bitterness adds character

What you will need
14 Ntulas, chopped
5 Tomatoes, chopped
1 C. Ground mukene
1 Onion, chopped
1 Tsp. Fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. Cooking oil

2 Tbsp. Maize flour
3 Tbsp. Soy sauce


In a cooking pan, pour cooking oil. Add salt and ginger
then stir for one minute. Add onions and tomatoes then
stir for a minute. Cover the pan and let the tomatoes
cook for five to eight minutes. Check if they are soft and
tender. If so, add the ntula and cover them for ten
minutes while stirring occasionally. Stir in the mukene
powder. In a separate bowl, dilute the soy sauce with
three tablespoons of water; add the maize flour and
mix. While stirring, pour the mixture in the cooking pan.
Continue stirring for a minute, and then remove from
fire. Serve