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The Best of Kenyan Cuisine: 10 Dishes to Savour on your next Safari

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Susan Swanepoel

Safari Travel Planner

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From its restaurants to its street foods, Kenyan cuisine is wonderfully diverse and always tasty.

These days visitors to Kenya can enjoy flavors influenced by a wide variety of ethnic groups and cultures, giving each dish a signature taste you won’t find anywhere else.

Get ready to take your tastebuds on a tour of Kenya with these 10 local cuisines. 

  1. Ugali

Ugali is a staple food in Kenya, a simple yet hearty dish made from maize flour (cornmeal), salt, and hot water. Ugali can be made using different varieties of maize flour, including white maize flour and yellow maize flour, which can lead to different flavors and textures. Ugali is traditionally eaten with the hands and is typically served with a side of vegetables, roasted meats, and saucy stews.   

Kiran Jethwa, the creative force behind Nairobi’s “Seven Experience”, and his food channel Fearless Foods, has raved about the use of Ugali, incorporating it into a dish he calls the Low ‘n Slow Smoked Goat Ugali Taco.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kiran Jethwa (@chefkiranjethwa)

  1. Irio

Also known as Mukimo, this traditional Kenyan dish is made using mashed green peas, potatoes, corn, and sometimes other vegetables such as tomatoes or green bell pepper. Some variations of Irio include adding cooked greens like spinach or kale to the mixture. Irio is often served with grilled or roasted meat, stewed dishes like sukuma wiki, and a side of kachumbari, a fresh tomato and onion salad.

 

  1. Githeri

Another staple food in Kenya, Githeri is prepared using a mixture of boiled maize (corn) and beans. Githeri is often enjoyed on its own as a nutritious meal, but is also typically served with sukuma wiki (braised collard greens seasoned with onions, tomatoes, and spices), nyama choma (grilled or roasted meat such as beef, goat, or chicken), ugali, kachumbari, chapati (unleavened flatbread made from wheat flour, water, and oil), and mchuzi (a flavorful stew made with meat, vegetables, and spices).

Well-known Kenyan chef and the host of my Kenyan Plate, Chef Chep Chikoni, has made it her mission to see the country’s local dishes go global. She has a version of Githeri that she says will “make your in-laws mouth water.”

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Chepchirchir Hodiah (@chepchikoni)

 

  1. Matoke

This rich stew is made using green bananas, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spices. The mixture is simmered in a large pot until the bananas soften to create a thick, saucy, gravy.

Matoke is typically served with rice, ugali, or chapati, and pairs well with roasted meat.

A number of dishes enhance the flavor and texture of matoke, including nyama choma, sukuma wiki, kachumbari, chapati, and the firm Kenyan favorite, ugali.

 

  1. Bhajias

Also known as “bhajis” or “pakoras”, bhajias are a popular street food and appetizer. Bhajias are thinly sliced vegetables such as potatoes, onions, or spinach, coated in a seasoned chickpea flour batter and deep-fried until crispy.

Typically served hot, bhajias are often accompanied by chutneys or sauces for dipping. One popular twist is to serve bhajia between slices of soft bread along with chutney and sliced onions, a snack known as Bhajia Pav.

 

  1. Nyama Choma

Widely considered to be Kenya’s unofficial national dish, Nyama Choma translates to “grilled meat” in Swahili. While the meat of choice is goat, for its rich and gamey taste, beef, chicken, and fish are also popular.

The meat is marinated in a mixture of spices and then grilled over hot coals until charred and tender. Nyama Choma is enjoyed everywhere in Kenya, and is often served in bars, restaurants, and at social gatherings. 

 

 

  1. Mandazi

This popular snack or breakfast food is almost a doughnut or deep-fried bread. Made from a simple dough of flour, sugar, coconut milk or water, and sometimes yeast or baking powder, mandazi is shaped into triangles or rectangles and deep-fried until golden brown and puffy.

Simple and versatile, mandazi can be enjoyed on its own or paired with jams and chai tea, and is a popular part of Kenyan food culture. 

 

  1. Tilapia Fry

Also known simply as fried tilapia, a freshwater fish prized for its mild flavor and firm texture, tilapia fry is usually seasoned with spices and herbs, coated in flour or breadcrumbs, then shallow or deep-fried. There are often variations in seasoning and cooking techniques, depending on regional influences.

Tilapia fry pairs well with a variety of side dishes and condiments and can be served as the main dish or as part of a larger meal. 

 

  1. Maharagwe

Known for its rich and creamy texture, this Kenyan staple dish consists of kidney beans cooked in a coconut milk sauce. While the basic preparation is as simple as that, there are differences in seasoning and ingredients depending on regional preferences, so it’s worth trying a few times if you’re traveling around Kenya.

Maharagwe is typically served as a side dish alongside ugali, steamed white rice, chapati, and kachumbari.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Graham Brown-Martin (@gbmpics)

  1. Pilau

This flavorful and fragrant rice dish is typically made by cooking rice with a variety of spices, meat (usually chicken, beef, or goat), and vegetables as a one-pot meal.

Often served during festive occasions, celebrations, and gatherings, pilau is considered a staple dish of Kenyan cuisine. It’s usually served hot as a main dish and pairs well with a variety of side dishes, including raita, pilipili ya kukaanga, and fried plantains.

 

Exploring the vibrant culinary landscape of Kenya is a rewarding experience that will captivate your palate. Embark on a gastronomic adventure – speak to a safari expert at Discover Africa today about planning your luxury, tailor-made journey through Kenya.          


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