It’s no secret, I love food! Before living in a small Kenyan agricultural town in Nakuru County, I was unsure what to expect to be eating day in day out for the next 10 weeks. I was a little nervous to be journeying so far out of my food comfort zone but I couldn’t wait to try an array of new foods. For me, food is the cornerstone of immersing yourself in a new culture. The tastes, the smell and even the way it’s prepared and eaten all say a lot about the part of the world you may find yourself in. I had the pleasure of eating all sorts of food in all sorts of places, from small little cafes to host homes and thank you feasts from people we helped during our volunteering programme. I got to experience the best (and sometimes worst) foods Kenya has to offer. Here is a little insight into some of the Kenyan dishes I ate during my time living there and some recipes in case you feel inspired to try Kenyan cuisine for your self.
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This mashed-up mixture was one of my favourite Kenyan foods. Closely resembling mashed potato, but with added green vegetables, maize and beans. I got fed up of eating chips all the time pretty quickly and Mukimo became my side dish of choice.
This white stodgy mixture is pretty much the staple of the Kenyan diet. It’s affordable to make and very filling to eat, though it may not look particularly appetizing. Ugali is made by boiling cornflower with water and mixing until your muscles begin to ache. Although it’s flavourless on its own, it’s a good accompaniment to a nice stew (but not as nice served with a lone portion of kale).
Chicken And Chips
Eating out in a small town in Kenya meant very limited options. You could find this meal on the menu of every café and restaurant. It became a staple of my Kenyan diet, especially on the days I became particularly fed up with Ugali. You could get your chicken with either normal chips or masala chips which were coated in a lovely masala sauce.
Chapatis are the best. Hands down! They are a pita like a soft flatbread that originated in Asia but has firmly become part of the Kenyan and East African diet. In the small town, I stayed in there was a lady who had a little stall on the street and at night made fresh Chapatis by candlelight to sell to passers-by. Our volunteer group quickly become her best customers.
Mandazis and Samosas
These are hands down the best snack foods to have whilst in Kenya. Samosa’s in Kenya are very similar to the ones you find at an Indian restaurant. They are triangle-shaped savoury pastry, filled with a minced meat and onion mixture and fried in oil. Mandazis are very similar to doughnuts and have a soft bread-like inside and a slightly crisp outside. They make the perfect accompaniment to a cup of chai tea.
Kenyan stews are tasty, filling and easy to make. They usually have a meat or potato base and feature a few vegetables too. The best stew I had in Kenya was at a friend’s host home. They made a delicious potato and banana stew made with un-ripened bananas named Matoke. It was the definition of comfort food.
Meat is one of the staples of the Kenyan diet but there are many ways of serving it, including wet fried, dry-fried and roasted. Dry fried is without any sauce and wet fried comes in a spiced tomato sauce, similar to a masala. Roasted meat is also known as Nyama Choma and is marinated in many spices before being roasted. It’s delicious served with Kachumbari, fresh tomato and onion salad.
Ndengu is a Kenyan stew made up of small little green grams. It is very healthy and nutritious and perfect for Vegetarians and Vegans alike.
If you love potatoes, you’ll love Bhajia’s. I was lucky enough to receive a Bhajia making master class whilst living in Kenya which definitely helped spark my love of this tasty snack. They are made by slicing up potatoes, boiling them and then dipping them in a batter mixture and frying them in oil.
I hope you enjoyed my little guide to Kenyan food. I hope you feel inspired to try some new dishes and get a little flavour of East African cuisine.