Our beautiful country continues to attract numerous foreigners, and we can only hope that they fully immerse themselves in our culture and get to enjoy the local cuisine. If you’re looking to dig right in, here’s a basic guide. You know…just so you’re not overwhelmed when you go through a menu or visit someone’s home.
Ugali tops the list because it is the most common Kenyan food staple. It is made from cornmeal that is added to boiling water and heated until it turns into a dense block of cornmeal paste. Some people add milk or butter to make it a bit tastier than it is but either way,small amount of cooked vegetables or saucy stew, ugali is a delight to many.
2. Irio (Mashed Peas and Potato Mix)
Irio is another famous dish in Kenya that originated from the Central region as its a Kikuyu staple. Green peas and potatoes and or greens are boiled and then mashed up before whole kernels of maize (corn) are added for some extra starch and texture. You can also choose to boil everything together and then mash. This hearty meal can be enjoyed with nyama choma or just some stew.
3. Githeri (Beans and Corn)
Another meal from the Central region which consists of boiled beans, corn kernels which are then fried with a little bit of vegetables and potatoes and spices. Githeri is a filling and highly nutritious and can be eaten with anything as an accompaniment. Try githeri with rice, chapati, or even githeri with salt, pepper and/or chilies.
4. Kenyan Pilau (Spiced Rice)
Pilau is a combination of rice cooked with flavor bursting spices like cumin, cardamon, cinnamon, and cloves. It is mostly common in the coastal region and is best served with meat stew and a few slices of fresh tomato and onions or plain with kachumbari. Pilau is made with different types of meat including Beef Pilau, Chicken Pilau and even Sossi Pilau. There is several types of spiced rice including Biryani which is also popular in the coastal region and among the Asian community. Biryani is colored rice served with a thick spicy/curry paste and a side of salad.
6. Sukuma Wiki (Collard Greens / Kale)
Also known as collard greens or kale in English, sukuma wiki is one of the most popular kenyan vegetable dishes. Cooked by frying it with onions and tomatoes, sukuma wiki is the number one choice when it comes to ugali accompaniment. You can however served with any meal you are having. Remember you need those greens.
7. Meat Stew
Kenyan style stew can be made using a number of different meats: beef stew, goat stew, chicken stew or any other animal stew. You can also include a few other base vegetable ingredients such as carrots, peppers, peas, or potatoes. Add water and spices to make the stew and you can choose the consistence you want by adding water.
You know you are in Kenya when you walk into a Nyama Choma base on a busy week day and its packed to capacity. Nyama choma completes the list of Kenyan food list so make sure to try some this Jamhuri. Nyama CHoma can be made from goat or beef which are the two most common forms of nyama choma, but chicken (kuku choma) and fish (samaki choma) are also valid choices.
9. Matoke (Plantain Stew)
Originally from Uganda, Matoke has over time become a popular meal in Kenya. Plantain are cooked up in a pot with some oil, tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilies, meat (optional), and lemon juice then cooked until they become soft and form a thick sauce. Enjoy this with some stew and greens and you will love it.
10. Chapati (Flatbread)
Borrowed from Indian cuisine, Kenyan style chapatis are made with a flour dough that is wound into a coil before being rolled into a flat round circle then fried on a skillet accompanied by plenty of oil so it becomes crispy on the edges but remains moist and doughy on the interior. Chapatis go well with fried cabbage, beans, or even with a cup of tea for breakfast.
Many meat lovers and beer drinkers also enjoy eating Mutura, the real Kenyan sausage. Goat intestine wrappers are stuffed full of the alluring combination of ground meat parts and goat blood. The sausage is boiled until it is almost cooked through and then thrown on the grill to dehydrate the meat and give it that sensational smoky taste. Try this if you go for a barbecue and you must just love it.
18. Grilled Maize (Mahindi Choma)
Mahindi Choma as its refered to tops the list of Kenyan street food. The mature corn is picked before it dries and roasted on a charcoal grill on the streets especially in estates. Its best enjoyed well salted, with chili and lime.