Kenya is everything you’ve ever dreamed of – beautiful flora and fauna, warm people, explosive fusion of cultures, undulating landscapes, pristine sandy beaches, best-in-class hotels, and so much more. Most people know Kenya for its famous long-distance runners and sizzling safari excursions; however, its diverse range of simple yet fabulous delicacies is to die for. It brings together a taste of early Indian rail workers, a dash of spices of the early Arab traders, and a tinge of Swahili coastline dishes, coming up with local eats that’ll certainly knock your socks off.
Keep reading for our top picks for must-try Kenyan local foods.
Ugali and Sukuma Wiki (Kale)
There’s a local saying that “if you haven’t tasted ugali, you haven’t experienced the true essence of Kenya.” That in itself isn’t surprising at all–ugali is a staple of Kenyan cuisine. It’s whipped up using coarse, white corn flour, stirred consistently in boiling water until it turns into a white cake. With a side dish of sukuma wiki – chopped kale leaves lightly fried with tomatoes, sweet red onions, and an assortment of seasoning, ugali sure tastes heavenly.
Influenced by early Arabian and Indian cuisine, chicken biryani is one of the most complex Swahili dishes you ought to try. It features a fantastic blend of Indo-Persian spices, tender chicken, and dried fruit cooked meticulously alongside basmati rice. The warming blend of spices will definitely melt in your mouth, tickling your taste buds. Whether you’re looking to check out the coastal islands, the capital of Nairobi, or any other Kenyan destination in between, chicken biryani is poised to be available in any local eatery.
Chapati and Maharagwe
To Mexicans, there are frijoles, and to Kenyans, there’s maharagwe – an assortment of red kidney beans cooked to perfection in a stew. It also incorporates a plethora of condiments such as coconut milk, fresh coriander, cardamom, Indian spices, and a tinge of sea salt for an awesome taste. With some chunky kidney beans, the stew boasts an incredibly buttery and thick consistency that goes so well with a bite of rolled chapati.
Native to Kikuyu tribe, githeri is a savory bean and maize stew. Almost synonymous with every local eatery in Kenya, githeri brings together corn, beans, potatoes, and a choice of beef stock or steak. The blend is slowly cooked in tomato and onion gravy and typically served with a side of sukuma wiki (kale) or chapatti. If you’re looking for the real deal, just check out bustling city markets or bus stop eateries.
Nyama Choma – Coal Grilled Steak, Mutton, or Chicken
You can’t say you know grilled meat until you’ve tasted nyama choma. Grilled over hot charcoal, the meat is so sizzling and tender that it teases your taste buds like never before. The beauty of nyama choma, however, lies in the fact that the meat roasts in its own juices, bringing out a riot of flavors that’ll make you say “woah”! Finish off your tasty meal with a tangy and hot side dish of chopped onions, tomatoes, red pepper, lime, coriander, and a choice of other condiments.
An excellent alternative to biscuits or bread, mandazi is poised to take your breakfast from a drab to fab in no time! These sugar-coated doughnuts are infused with coconut milk, cardamom, and a little flare of natural sugar, making it an ideal treat for lazy holiday mornings.
Much like chicken biryani, pilau mashes together the magical allure of Persian and Indian spices with the mouth-watering taste of slowly simmered chunks of diced meat or chicken. Rice with chopped tomatoes, onions, fresh coriander, and an assortment of condiments is cooked in broth, giving it an “out-of-this-world” taste. Have the server include a roll of chapatti or a side dish of kachumbari (a relish of red onions, tomatoes, coriander, and other local greens) for a hearty meal.
Also a fantastic Swahili coast dish, Bajia is available countrywide. Potato slices are dressed with an array of Swahili spices and condiments then deep fried using healthy oils, giving them a perfect crisp look and a crunchy taste. Although available in most fast food eateries, you can get healthier bajias in high-end restaurants in major cities.
Originally from Uganda and western part of Kenya, matoke is now all the rage throughout East Africa. It is made of plantain bananas slowly simmered in a tomato and onion gravy as well as garlic and beef stock. The plantain bananas are often fried before other ingredients are stirred in. Enjoy matoke in a Kenyan local restaurant with a side of pilau or steamed rice. With a rolled chapatti on the side, you can take your matoke meal to a whole new and fantastic level.
There you are – fantastic, hearty Kenyan foods everyone must try. You can also sample Kenya’s popular seafood including tilapia, oysters, and even shrimp. With all these culinary options, you’ll certainly enjoy your stay in Kenya. However, don`t get convinced that these are the only food you can expect from Kenyan communities. Kenya comprises of different tribes with each tribe having some unique dishes. In you next visit to Kenya ask for more dishes that you can enjoy.