The Kenya food tradition has generally emphasized on feeding the masses as efficiently as possible, with little room for flair or innovation. Nonetheless, Kenya is blessed with a cornucopia of natural produce and the food scene is definitely on the improve. Kenyan markets are bursting with crisp vegetables, the steamy coast provides abundant tropical fruit and fresh seafood, and through out the country, meat-be it beef, goat, mutton, or even camel-is consumed with gusto. So while traditional fare may veer towards the bland and filling, if you are prepared to be adventurous you may well have some memorable or unique gastronomic experiences.
Staple Kenyan food and specialties
Although there are some interesting Kenyan dishes, travelers mostly encounter simple meat stews and curries with fillers such as rice, potatoes or another high-starch option. These aren't culinary masterpieces-its just survival food for the locals offering the maximum opportunity to fill up at minimum cost. Vegetarian visitors are likely to struggle; meat features in most meals and many vegetable dishes are cooked in meat stock.
Breakfast in Kenya is generally a simple affair consisting of chai (tea) accompanied by mandazi, a semi-sweet flat doughnut. Mandazi are best in the morning when they are freshly made-they become rubbery and less appetizing as the day goes on. Another traditional breakfast dish is Uji, millet based porridge similar to Ugali. Uji is best served warm with lashings of milk and brown sugar.
Main Kenyan dishes
The true staples of Kenya diet are Ugali and sukuma wiki. Ugali is maize meal cooked into a thick porridge until it sets hard, then served up in flat slabs. Its incredibly stodgy and tends to sit in the stomach like a brick, but most Kenyan swear by it. It will fill you up after a long day's safari but it won't set your taste buds atingle. Many Kenyan dishes are accompanied by sukuma wiki-braised or stewed spinach.
Sukuma wiki in Swahili means literally 'stretch the week', the implication being that they are so cheap they allow the householder to stretch the budget until the next weekly pay cheques. Despite its ubiquity, a dish of well-cooked sukuma wiki with tomatoes, stock and capsicum makes a refreshing change from the preponderance of meat in other recipes.
Another noteworthy staple, especially in the central highlands is irio (kienyeji in Swahili), made from mashed greens, potatoes and boiled corn or beans. Also common is mukimo, a kind of hash made from sweet potatoes, corn, beans and plantains. Vegetarians can find githeri- a mix of beans and corn-in most local eateries.
But Kenyan food is all about meat. Kenyans are enthusiastic carnivores; their recognized national dish is nyama choma (barbecued meat) and most other dishes are based around stewed meat, accompanied by a generous portion of carbohydrates, beef, goat and mutton are the most common, and they tend to be pretty tough. Carbohydrates come in five major forms; Ugali, potatoes, rice chapatti and Matoke. The chapatti is identical to its Indian predecessor. Matoke is mashed green plantains, which when well prepared can taste like buttery, lightly whipped mashed potato.
The most distinctive Kenyan food is found on the coast; Swahili dishes reflect the history of contact with the Arabs and other Indian Ocean traders and incorporate the produce of the region. The results can be excellent and spices such as clove and cinnamon feature prominently. The rice-based dishes, biriyani and pilau, are clearly derived from Persia; they should be delicately spiced with saffron and star anise, and liberally sprinkled with carrot and raisins.
You will also encounter Indian food. Most restaurants serve curries and Indian - inspired dishes such as masala chips (i.e. with a curry sauce) and Indian restaurants on the coast and elsewhere dish up traditional curries and other fare. Western dishes such as roast chicken and steak are staples in more up market restaurants found in the larger towns.
Fruits of Kenya
Because of the country's varied climate, there is often an excellent array of fruits to be found. Depending on the place and the season, you can buy mangoes, papayas, pineapples, passion fruits, Guavas, Oranges, custard apples, bananas (of many varieties), tree tomatoes and coconuts. Chewing on a piece of sugar cane is also a great way to end a meal. Prices are low and the quality is very high.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
11:29 AM 1 comment