Planning a Trip to Kenya? Here are 5 Must-Try Dishes
It's somewhat of a tragedy that the unique, complex and rich flavors of Kenyan dishes have not yet caught on globally. Hopefully it's only a matter of time, but why wait when this remarkable feast of treats is so readily available to anyone willing to try. Here are five scrumptious dishes to introduce you to some of Kenya's finest traditional cuisine.
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Ugali is to Kenya as pasta is to Italy and rice is to Japan, a staple food eaten in almost every household around the country. It's made by mixing maize flour in boiling water until a dense, starchy, grainy block is formed. Although quite a neutral flavor, it gives off a lovely mild scent of roasted kernels, which makes it a wonderfully versatile accompaniment to various combinations of fish, vegetables and meat stews. For a true authentic experience, it's best to try eating it without the use of utensils, simply pinch out a small piece, dip and scoop it into the savory sides it's served with as you like.
Nyama choma, which directly translates to grilled meat, is the ultimate festive food of Kenya. Wherever nyama choma is sold, whether it be in a small roadside shack, or a more upscale establishment, expect a fun and energetic atmosphere of music, local beer, friends and families clinking glasses, laughing and chatting away as the smell of fresh meat very slowly roasting over a bed of hot, ash-covered coals fills the air. The most popular meat used for nyama choma is goat, followed by beef. Traditionally seasoned with only salt, it's often served with a light, fresh kachumbari salad made using fresh onions, tomatoes, lime, salt, chilli peppers and cilantro.
Chapatis are a perfect representation of the deep, historical links forever connecting Kenya to India. While the origins of this relatively big, doughy flatbread are Indian, chapatis have become so ubiquitous to Kenyan cuisine they're now considered a staple Kenyan food. Every household tends to have their own particular spin on the dough mix, but generally they're prepared using flour, water, salt and oil, and then spun and flipped on a well oiled hot cast iron skillet to ensure a perfectly crisp and flaky edge. Despite how commonplace chapatis have become on Kenyan menus, they're still considered by many to be a delightful treat, and considering how delicious they are, justifiably so.
Also known as African sausage, Mutura is Kenya's traditional blood sausage. A cheap, roadside delicacy, they're made by stuffing thoroughly cleaned intestines with goat offal, blood and spices, tying the ends, and then grilling over hot charcoal until sizzling and golden brown. Unlike European variations of blood sausage, mutura is seasoned generously using various herbs, spices and chilies, resulting in a juicy, fragrant and incredibly delicious treat, that puts to good and sustainable use the commonly overlooked and wasted cuts of meat.
Mukimo, a traditional food of the Kikuyu ethnic group of Kenya, is a deliciously hearty side dish prepared by mashing green peas, pumpkin leaves and potatoes, and folding in whole kernels of maize. It has a distinctively green hue, varying in intensity depending on the balance of ingredients used and is often served with a savory meat stew, vegetables or curry. Definitely a perfect dish for anyone that loves to eat a healthy portion of vegetables.
With a long history of welcoming immigrants, a diverse and large community of expats, a well traveled and growing middle class and a delightfully curious citizenry, Kenya is quickly becoming Africa's food hub. More than ever before, there is now so much room for flair and innovation in the restaurant scene where you can find playful, creative and tasty adaptations to both traditional and foreign cuisine. Major publications have even taken to comparing this new and exciting food scene to that of London itself. That being said, rest assured, when it comes to food - a trip to Kenya will not disappoint.