Drawn from diverse cultures and ethnic traditions fused with tastes absorbed from foreign countries, Kenyan food and drink are in a league of their own. They are also critical to cementing the collectivist nature Kenyans are known for when bringing together family and friends.
The way food and beverages are prepared and presented in Kenya largely attests to the long-standing ties and contacts that Kenya has had with Arab, European and Indian settlers. However, the flavors of Kenya do not erode, and each of the 42 local tribes boasts of its own traditional cuisine.
Common Kenyan foods
Kenya, an agriculturally fertile country, is not without all kinds of vegetables and fruits. Although when visiting certain restaurants, the menu can be read as an international menu with foods like French fries, hamburgers and mac n cheese, as well as rice, pizza, chicken nuggets and fish sticks.
The most traditional Kenyan foods include:
- Cold – Also know as’Mukimo‘ gold ‘Kienyeji‘, a dish originally from the Kikuyu tribe. It is a combination of corn and beans, mashed with plantains or cooked potatoes.
- Ugali – Corn cake made by stirring boiling water with ground cornmeal until hard to the touch. This is perhaps the most common staple in all ethnic groups in Kenya. Cooked vegetables, fish, fried chicken, and beef are the main sides.
- Githeri – Common in the tribes of Kenya, it is a mixture of boiled beans and corn. Peas are sometimes used in place of beans to enhance the flavor.
- Wali – A dish from the coast, white rice cooked with coconut milk.
- Ingoho – A popular dish among the Luhya tribe, Ingoho is fried chicken cooked with traditional herbs and spices. It is usually served with Ugali (the corn cake).
- Biriani – A coastal favorite dish consisting of white rice cooked with cinnamon, parsley, garlic, onion, chopped carrot and tomato, beef or chicken and raw claws. Mashed potatoes and vegetables usually accompany the dish.
- Chapati – Often eaten with stew, chapati is a pancake-like bread made on a griddle.
- Kachumbari – A very common garnish: a mixture of sliced raw tomatoes, parsley, green pepper and onion.
- Nyama choma gold Nyam chom – Perhaps a local favorite, nyama choma is charcoal-grilled meat (beef or goat) and is eaten as a party meal or with friends on weekends and nights out. Kachumbari (the garnish made with tomatoes) is the preferred side dish.
- Maandazi – They are golden brown donuts that are served with drinks, especially tea.
- Samosas – Often taken with tea or kachumbari, they are triangle-shaped fried doughs filled with minced meat.
Coffee is to Kenya like wine to France and vodka is the symbol of the country of Russia.
Grown, harvested, and processed in mass production, coffee in Kenya, especially Arabica coffee, is perhaps the best quality coffee grown worldwide. Although international coffee brands such as Nestlé have significant market share in Kenya, Kenyan coffee dominates the local market.
Most Kenyans are torn between coffee and tea, as both are high-quality and readily available. For coffee, it is preferred to take it black (“kahawa chungu”) and is often mixed with ginger and a small amount of sugar.
Despite many years of using Kenyan coffee beans to make its signature coffee in stores around the world, Starbucks has not established a store in Kenya. High-end coffee is sold in supermarkets and for those who savor its great flavor outdoors, they go to stores like Java and Dormans.
Although modern drinks such as fruit juices, canned energy drinks, and international soft drinks are accessible and affordable, there are traditional drinks that are served in Kenya.
- Uji – Porridge made with ground millet or sorghum. Ground amaranth, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, fish fillets, etc. are mixed together. to improve nutrients and flavor.
- Mursik – Originally from the Kalenjin community, it is made from fermented milk mixed with ground charcoal and special roots.
- Madafu – Fresh coconut milk. Popular on the coast.
- Wine – Often imported from France, Italy, Chile, South Africa
- Beer – Apart from international brands, there are numerous local beer brands, the most popular being Tusker beer.
- Spirit – Local and international brands.
- Local beers – Popular in rural areas and among the urban poor, local beers include Mnazi; made with coconut sap, Muratina; made of honey, Busaa; fermented barley, millet and corn, changaa and mongare.
Especially in rural areas, the excessive use of alcohol and consumption by minors is considered immoral and disrespectful.