Tales from Kivu

written by Rumasha Beni 28th August 2019

Rumasha Beni is the 22-year-old chef and owner at Kivu Cafe, Born in Congo and raised in Kenya, his multicultural background is the backbone to Kivu’s Afro-continental cuisine. 

Two months into the third University strike, can’t remember if it was the students or the professors shouting on the news this time, all I knew was, I was getting tired of staring at the ceiling every morning with nothing to do that day, and the next, and the next. 

I started to look forward to the parts of my day with anything going on; whether it was going to the shops, exercising or even cooking! Living alone means you decide what’s for lunch and dinner every day and boredom means getting very aware of how many times you’ve had beans and rice this week.

Before all my YouTube, MasterChef and Bon Appetit suggestions were “how to make” videos, I’d remember how my mum’s Sunday chicken tasted or my sister’s breakfast crepes, the maid’s matumbo stew was heavenly and the samosas from the kibanda down the road were gourmet for all I cared.

For the next two months, you’d find me asleep during the day, awake at 3 am testing frying temperatures and marinating lamb or at the markets in the afternoon trying to get the mama mbogas to explain to me how to turn butternut and snow peas into a sauce! I was in love with cooking, and if taste counts for anything, then cooking loved me too.

I’m a Kenyan born in DRC, into a beautiful Congolese family but raised entirely in Kenya. When we weren’t making fun of how Kenyans spoke Swahili or when my friend’s weren’t making Papa Felolo and bolingo jokes, we were eating. I ate with at home the most amazing Congolese food on the planet and outside I was introduced to the beauty of Kenyan ingredients. We really all look for the same things from food, cooking is where the cultural magic happens. Now I’m happiest when I’m imitating cultural dishes, blending ingredients and sprinkling international techniques from my YouTube teachers. That’s what Kivu is! My little private catering and delivery eatery where you call me when you want adventurous, affordable, affordable, damn near artistic plates of gourmet food. Bringing the Afro-fusion hard into our afro-continental cuisine. Food built off of memories and a bold goal to expand the food-curious citizens of the city, hopefully soon, the world.

January 2018 I was just a vet-med student waiting for the news update that school ‘might’ be back on this month, or the next. Now I’m living and working as a chef, happier than I have ever been. The sound of the crisping fish skin on that olive oil glazed skillet was too loud for me, now I stare jittery and proud as people taste my food and say “What? Oh wow, how’d you make this? What’s in this?” I can do this forever and I plan to!


Sombe (classic)

Photography by Patrick Gitau

Prep – 20min |  Cook time – 2hrs


  • 250gm Sombe
  • 100gm of Congolese “Nyanya”
  • 2 large leeks
  • 2 large onions 
  • Half a clove of garlic
  • 50g of groundnuts
  • 4 tablespoons of Palm oil
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • One teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh nutmeg
  • 4 cups of water


  1. In a large pot add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, heat up and add and saute onions, leeks and garlic
  2. Mix in the sombe with the aromatics. Mix well for about 2 minutes
  3. Add 2 cups of water, all the salt, black pepper and nutmeg, and allow to simmer for an hour (covered) until 2 thirds of water are reduced. 15 minutes into the long simmer, add your diced “nyanya” and the teaspoon of baking soda, leave to boil.
  4. Mix in the palm oil and allow to cook for another 15 minutes.
  5. Add the crushed ground nuts or two tablespoons of peanut butter mixed in with a little water. Allow Sombe to simmer on medium-low for 20 to 30 more minutes.

Serve hot with Fufu

Creamy potato soup

Photography by Patrick Gitau

Prep – 20 minutes | Cook time – 40 minutes


  • 200g of potatoes
  • 2 large carrots
  • 100g of snow peas
  • 1 large onion
  • Half a clove of garlic
  • Dill
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons of salt, black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • Half a tub of butter or 3 tablespoons of margarine/ vegetable oil/ animal fat.


  1. In half of the butter or cooking fat, saute the onions and garlic.
  2. On medium-high heat, add the finely chopped snow peas and grated carrots. Mix well and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the finely grated potatoes on medium-low heat, add salt, paprika, chilli flakes. Mix well until the potatoes start to stick on the pot.
  4. Add two cups of water to deglaze, and allow to boil until the water is reduced by 3/4.
  5. Add the rest of the butter or fat, stir in to incorporate.
  6. Add the milk and continue staring as it thickens slightly. If it’s too thick, add water and stir to a preferred creamy soup-like consistency.

Serve hot!

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