When travelling to another country, it’s always polite to make yourself knowledgeable of the culture(s) of the people of that country. In fact, it is common courtesy. One of the ways to do this, some would say that it is the best way to do this, is to try eating the local delicacies. This is because food is one of the ways in which human beings express themselves, from its cultivation to its consumption. Food is one of the ways in which culture is represented. Food is part of culture, which is why I am making this list of the top 5 Kenyan delicacies that you should try out if you ever find your way to Kenya. I have compiled this list based on the popularity of the dishes and how often they are eaten.
Mutura is the Kenyan sausage. The sausage was made traditionally by the Agikuyu people as a blood sausage and it gained popularity countrywide in the 20th Century. Mutura was traditionally prepared during a slaughter and it was prepared by stuffing the animal intestines with fresh blood and then slow-cooking it on a traditional grill. Today, mutura is prepared in many variations. Some add fat to it, others add shredded meat, others add potatoes, and other add herbs, spices and vegetables. In fact, it is not uncommon to find one mutura with all of these things. As such, many of the restaurants with mutura on their menu offer options for customization. Mutura can also be bought in the streets from street food vendors.
Pilau is a rice dish commonly made by the Swahili people in Kenya. However, like mutura, pilau gained nationwide popularity and is considered a national dish too. Pilau is made by cooking rice in a seasoned broth with meat and vegetables. It is served in many local restaurants.
This maize and beans dish is commonly referred to as the ‘working person’s meal’ in vernacular. The dish was traditionally made by the Agikuyu and rose to popularity due to its simplicity and affordability. The most basic version of the dish is prepared by simply boiling maize and beans in a pot and this is the one that is sold by street vendors and small restaurants. Other versions of githeri may include common leafy greens such as collard greens and spinach, traditional vegetables such as sagaa and marutu, tubers such as potatoes, and even meat, herbs and spices.
Ugali is a dish made of maize flour. It is prepared by cooking the cornflour in boiling water until it becomes firm and then it is shaped to its characteristic round-but-flat-at-the-bottom shape. This is another ‘working person’s meal’ and it is mostly eaten in combination with leafy greens and/or meat. It is eaten with the hands, although some may prefer to do otherwise. While eating with the hands, pinch off a part of the ugali, roll it into a ball, dig into the ball and scoop some of your vegetables and/or meat with it and then put it in your mouth. Leftover ugali can be eaten with tea for breakfast. Note that it is frowned upon to eat with your left hand, or greet someone with it, in most African cultures because, and I kid you not, it is assumed that everyone wipes their asses with their left hands.
5. Nyama Choma
Nyama choma is Kiswahili for ‘burnt meat’, which is the direct translation. In actuality, it refers to grilled meat. Nyama choma is the choice of meal at many celebrations. In fact, a party is not a party in Kenya if it doesn’t have nyama choma. Nyama choma is commonly eaten with ugali and kachumbari, a tomato, onion and coriander salad dish.