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Pan Seared Garlic Lemon Omena (Dagaa)

Garlic Lemon Omena

I introduced omena to my munchkin sometime last year. She already knows how to eat fish, quite well, i might add. So she comes home from school that day when i elected to cook omena, and comes into the kitchen with a befuddled look on her face. And a slightly pinched nose hahaha! Given, omena is an acquired taste and all 🙂

Her curiosity piqued, she peeks into the pan and asks, ‘What is that?’. I tell her its fish and hand her one to taste. She stares it down and asks if its a baby fish and i reply in the affirmative. ‘Hmmm, tamu!’, she responds. WINNING!!! You got to love this adventurous soul. She then proceeded to finish a tiny bowl of omena. And it wasn’t dinner time yet!!!

Garlic Lemon Omena

Omena is a small silver fresh water fish found largely in East Africa. Also known as the Lake Victoria Sardine or Silver Cyprinid. Locally, it is referred to as Dagaa (Swahili) or Mukene (Luganda) and is an important food source for the communities living around the lake.

When i went to the market, i was informed that there are slight differences in omena. The tiny ones come from Port Victoria while the slightly bigger ones come from Kisumu. Well, market chatter aside, i prefer the tiny ones 🙂

See Also: Thyme Papprika Fried Tilapia in Creamed Peppers 

Indubitably, fish is a super food in its own right. It is packed with vital nutrients such as protein and vitamin D. Fish is also the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids which are important for the development of the brain and body.

Have you tried ground omena? You should. I usually add one table spoon of it to my daily 10am bowl of gruel 🙂 Here is how i made munchkins omena

  1. Omena ¼ Goro goro or measured using a 250g container
  2. 1 large red onion
  3. 3 cloves of Garlic
  4. 2 Tomatoes
  5. Juice of 1 lemon
  6. Salt to taste
  7. Black Pepper to taste
  8. Vegetable oil


Dried omena usually contains a lot of sand and grit when you purchase it. Place the fish on a clean counter top or tray. Sift through, separating the fish from the grit, much like you would do with rice. When you have removed as much of it as you possibly can, collect the fish and put it in a bowl.

Wash the fish in warm water to remove the remaining sand and grit. You may need to wash two or three times depending on how much grit is present. Avoid soaking the fish in water as the will get soggy when cooking.

Let’s Cook!

In a skillet, heat some vegetable oil. Drain out the omena well. When the oil is hot, place the omena in and let it pan sear for about 5 minutes. Try not to stir it too much to avoid breaking up the fish because it is still moist.

Next, add the sliced onions and crushed garlic. Stir gently until the garlic is aromatic and the onions translucent. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes and lemon juice and cook on medium heat until they get soft.

Take the now cooked omena off the burner and prepare to serve. You may enjoy this dish with ugali and your favorite green vegetable.

Share this recipe with your friends and be sure to reach out to me on social. Also, let me know in the comments below, what other recipes you would like to see on the blog 🙂

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