East Africa is home to some of the most under-rated tourist destinations in Africa. From the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro to the vast herds of wildlife, Kenya has the true heart of the African Safari. The coast as well as most game parks and reserves are now managed by large tour companies with five-star accommodation. The problem with the modernization of tourism is the loss of culinary adventure for visitors as resorts serve more Western-themed meals. You should go into the streets and villages to enjoy the best traditional East African dishes with recipes that haven’t changed for years. Here are the 10 most delicious foods you will love.
You will find different names for Ugali all over Africa but the process of making it remains the same. It can be brown, black or white depending on the flour used to make it. The most common version is made using maize flour and therefore white in colour. It is made by putting flour into boiling water and then stirring. You then add more water mix as the meal hardens until it is hardened like a little round bread. When served with meat, chicken or fish stew, the meal dissolves on the tongue as you eat and blends with the taste of stew giving a heavenly experience.
Some people call it the silver cyprinid while others call it the Lake Victoria Sardine but Kenyans know them as Omena. As the name suggests, these as silver freshwater sardines sourced fresh from the local lakes, especially Lake Victoria. The most preferred method of cooking is deep frying them in oil and then flavoured with onions, tomatoes, bell pepper and other spices the cook may like. They can also be used to make a thick stew. The sardines are served alongside Ugali and with vegetables on the side for the best experience.
Nyama Choma (grilled meat)
An evening in Nairobi is not well spent unless you get to eat grilled goat meat friends. This is the get-together meal for most Kenyans who enjoy their meat marinated and wash it down with beer. The meat is marinated in spices and pepper and cured for hours before it reaches the grill. The best cooks ensure that the coals heat the meat to perfection which is proved by the meat peeling slightly off the bones. The meat is served alongside Kachumbari, a special salad may by mixing thinly sliced tomatoes, onions, cabbages, pepper and other vegetables and spices you may like.
You will find versions of Pilau in India, The Middle East, Latin America and even Europe with each version drawing from local ingredients. In Kenya, the quality of Pilau is measured by the aroma it gives while still in the pot. You should be able to perceive it from miles away. The key ingredients are rice, cardamom, steak, Pilau Masala and tomato sauce. Recipes vary from place to place but the end result is golden brown rice bonded perfectly to chunks of meat which make a very fulfilling meal.
Vegetarians will love this one and it is actually the national dish of Kenya. On the surface, Githeri is just maize and beans simmered together until they bond. The best cooks know how to give it the flavour that makes it feel like a broth. The maize and beans are boiled for hours until they soften and then start dissolving into the soup. The mixture is then added into a broth made by cooking potatoes, tomatoes, onions and other spices. It gives the food the flavour and thickness that makes it just as filling as any of the meat-based dishes.
This is another vegetarian dish that almost resembles Ugali in appearance but relies on a different set of ingredients. The main ingredients are potatoes, pumpkin leaves, fresh maize off the cob and onions to flavour. Everything is cooked separately with the potatoes being fried in the oil and onions before adding water to boil. The potatoes are cooked until they soften as are the pumpkin leaves which are also boiled until they are runny. The leaves are then mashed into the potatoes alongside the boiled maize. The mixture is then mixed as it cooks while the pounding continues until it is properly mixed.
Chicken stew is the traditional protein that accompanies Ugali in Kenya and the favourite dish of people from the Western part of the country. The chicken is boiled until the meat is soft and then fried into a broth made using tomatoes, onions, pepper and other spices that help perfect the golden colour when cooking is done. Chicken stew is then served alongside Ugali and green vegetables.
Different cultures around the world use animal innards for different purposes including mincing or making sausages. In Kenya, the stew made using the innards is a popular dish although you need an experienced cook to ensure the tripe cooks and softens to be chewy before being fried into a stew. The intestines are washed thoroughly before being boiled for up to three hours making them chewy.
Also known as the African blood sausage, this is one of the most controversial foods in the country but also one of the most delicious if you got the right cook. Most of it is served in the streets and the hygiene standards may be questionable but that is what Kenyans actually go for. The sausage is made by stuffing a cow’s intestines with minced offal mixed with blood before being cooked and then grilled on a charcoal grill.
The roots of Chapati are believed to be in India or the Middle East but have since become a staple food for Kenyans. It is a flatbread whose value is based on how well the dough was mixed and oiled before it was baked on a pan. The best chapatis are actually brown layered allowing you to strip bite-sized pieces and dip them into the stew as you eat.
Do you know of any other traditional Kenyan recipes people should try when visiting? If you do why not let us know in the comments below.