A Guide to the Top Traditional Kenyan Foods
If you are coming to Nairobi as a tourist and for the first time, then you are in for a treat….food wise. There are many things to do in Nairobi, and choosing some great food to eat is one of them. There is such a wide variety of food to choose from, you will be lost for options!
If you have a chance to visit local hotels, make sure you sample as many of the traditional Kenyan dishes in Nairobi as you can. You can also find the same in the big hotels, but somehow, as some Kenyans will tell you, the food always tastes better in the local restaurants.
So what are the top traditional Kenyan foods?
“Nyama choma” is roasted beef or goat meat. It is roasted on an open grill with salt sprinkled on top. It is arguably the most popular Kenyan traditional food. Enjoyed with “Kachumbari” and “Ugali”, it comes in small bite sized chunks and is mostly served on a tray for a group of about four people, with the “Ugali” and “Kachumbari” served on smaller plates. A kilo of “Nyama Choma” will cost anywhere from Kshs. 600 to Kshs. 1000 depending on where you are buying it from.
This is a mix of red onions, red tomatoes, green/ red pepper, coriander and lemon juice. It is a sort of salad and can be prepared with a combination of all the above ingredients or a few of them. It is normally an accompaniment for “Nyama Choma” or “Pilau”, another popular Kenyan dish.
This is a staple food in many Kenyan households. It is white corn flour that is poured into hot water and mixed thoroughly into a thick block. It is then eaten with beef stew/ “Nyama Choma” or “Sukuma Wiki” (Kales), or even Kales mixed with Spinach. You can also add “Kachumbari” for an even better flavour!
This is another popular traditional food in Nairobi. It is a combination of maize (corn), beans, potatoes, and a green vegetables (optional). The corn and beans are first boiled until soft then fried to make a delicious meal. You can also add beef into the mixture. It is mostly popular with specific communities even though it can be enjoyed by anyone.
“Samaki” is Swahili for Fish. Fish stew is also a popular meal in Nairobi hotels. The stew is mostly served with “Ugali”, and can come as either wet fry or dry fry. It is also popular with specific communities in the country, but can be enjoyed by anyone.
“Pilau” is a special rice cooked with a variety of spices and with either beef or chicken. Most Nairobians will prepare it for visitors or on special occasions. It can be accompanied by “Kachumbari”.
“Mukimo” is sometimes referred to as “Irio”. It consists of mashed soft corn/ maize, peas, potatoes, and green pumpkin leaves or fig-leaf gourd leaves (“Kahurura”). The mix of all these is brought to a boil and then mashed with margarine or butter once the potatoes are soft. It is then fried with some onions and tomatoes (optional).
These are soft, fluffy, small round and flat breads that are made from rolled out dough that is then fried under medium heat on a cooking pan until they are brownish and crispy but still soft inside. They are also a delicacy in the country, mostly being prepared when one has guests or there is a special occasion. They can be served with beef stew, chicken stew, or even enjoyed with a cup of tea for breakfast. A “Chapati” will cost anything from Kshs. 50 to Kshs. 100 depending on where you are buying it from.
This is a deep fried pastry that has a combination of wheat flour, sugar, milk, margarine and some spices. It is mostly served as a breakfast food with tea/ coffee. It can also be eaten as a snack. A “Maandazi” will cost anything from Kshs. 30 to Kshs. 70 depending on where you are buying it from.
Most Kenyans refer to “Mutura” as the Kenyan sausage. It is mostly a street food. Ground meat is usually put into the intestines of a goat, boiled for some time, and then grilled. It is then served with salt and “Kachumbari”. You buy it in pieces of Kshs. 20 to Kshs. 50.
“Omena” is a type of fish that is very popular with some communities in the country. You can only find it in specific restaurants but it is worth a try. “Omena” stew is mostly served with “Ugali”, and can come as either wet or dry fry.
This is a type of banana that is fried with onions and tomatoes, and enjoyed with a sauce of choice. You can also choose to cook it with potatoes. As with “Omena”, not every restaurant will serve it but it worth a try if you come across it.
Chicken/ Beef “Biriani”
This is a special and delicious steamed rice combined with tomatoes and beef or chicken. There is different ways of preparing it, and so it might taste differently depending on where you are buying it from. In Kenyan households, this is also the kind of food that is prepared during a special event or when you have guests.
It would be unfair to list all the popular traditional Kenyan foods and leave out the “Viazi Karai”. This is mostly a coastal meal that even Nairobians only enjoy when they go down to the coast as it is sold almost everywhere there.
However, as many tourists visiting Nairobi always end up traveling to the coast, one of the tourist attractions in Kenya, then this is a must sample meal.
Potatoes are boiled, then dipped in a combination of butter and wheat flour, and deep fried.