People say, “home is where the heart is.” If home is whatever place you long to be, then I would mark Boko Boko Porini, just 25 km outside of Mombasa along the Mombasa–Malindi Highway, as my home.
You see, Boko Boko Porini’s food has soul – coastal comfort food entrenched with strong traditions. The venture belongs to Yolanda, daughter of a Seychellois mother and a Ugandan and Kenyan father. Established in 1975, it was ten years later when she began to infuse the best culinary delights from her kaleidoscope of backgrounds – Seychelles, Uganda and Kenya. Watching Yolanda work and run the restaurant is a joy, but she’s also very good company with a memorable captivating laugh that resonates with soul that the restaurant has come to be known for.
Boko Boko Porini brings a taste of the Seychelles to the Kenyan coast. Nestled in lush mature tropical gardens, birds chirp in the background and soft jazz fills the air. Wearing traditional Seychellois outfits, the friendly staff at Boko Boko Porini are dressed with an exotic and colourful flare. Tranquil, quiet and exotic, a meal at Boko Boko Porini transports you to the island nation of Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean.
Seychellois cuisine is largely influenced by French, Indian, Chinese, African and English customs. Long been enlivened by curries from India smoothed with fresh coconut cream, Chinese stir-frys with aromatic blends of garlic and ginger, exotic home-roasted island spices, African-inspired use of delicious roots like sweet potatoes, and generous amounts of fresh coconut milk in the preparation of most delicacies make Seychelles’ Creole cuisine simply mouth-watering without the fuss.
Surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the abundance of seafood is featured predominantly in Seychellois cuisine. Octopus is one of Seychelles’ chief delicacies. Whether it’s curried octopus or grilled and basted with a sauce of crushed ginger, chillies, and garlic; in Seychelles, octopus is cooked with incredible care to ensure that the meat remains delicate and soft.
Yolanda’s food is healthy, fragrant, flavourful and rustic. With little use of oil and sweetening dishes with organic honey instead of sugar, Yolanda’s mantra is that delicious food can also be incredibly healthy, especially if it’s fresh.
“If it’s not straight from the ocean, it’s not good enough,” Yolada demands.
We started with slices of fresh coconut tossed with lime and hot paprika to open up our palettes. There was the Taffi Creole, grilled fish on an open-flame, lightly spiced and salted to perfection. The Octopus Creole-style was sweet and spicy, mellowed with fresh coconut milk. Creamy de-shelled prawns sautéed with herbs and coconut milk followed. Grilled octopus marinated in red wine, topped with a generous sprinkling of shallots, deliciously disintegrates in your mouth to release its robust flavours. The Chicken Porini, a specialty that’s been on the menu since 1975, the freshest of chicken steamed only with tamarind sauce, with no water directly on the fire, was saturated with the bird’s natural flavours and accentuated by the natural sugars and tartness of the tamarind. The selection of sides – Coconut Rice, Fried Rice, Coconut Sweet Potatoes and Chapati – went well with the assortment of mains, but my favourite was definitely the Mahi, a more delicious version of Ugali.
Cooked with coconut milk, Mahi, Seychelles’ version of Ugali, is definitely more flavourful than the one I’m use to eating in Nairobi. Sylvester, a waiter at Boko Boko Porini for ten years definitely agrees, “SeychelloisUgali is better than Kenyan.”
Someone once told me that defining good food was a tricky business, but when the good stuff comes along, you just know it. Boko Boko Porini is a shrine to the best of Seychellois food, and most importantly, the essence of great food.