Once you visit Kenya and take part in the Rusinga Festival, you can expect to eat some of the best dishes that the country has to offer. They vary in flavour, taste, ingredients, the way they’re cooked and so much more. Although some dishes may seem different to what you’re accustomed to, one thing that we recommend is to keep an open mind to fully appreciate the delicious flavours that they offer.
The best thing about this is that the locals will be more than glad to offer you their homemade traditional dishes. So, if you want to learn more about the culinary traditions of Kenya, here are some of the best dishes that represent the country:
Nyama Choma (Roasted Meat)
If you want to start your Kenyan food journey in familiar waters, the best option for you is the Nyama Choma. This dish is simply a collection of roasted meat, mainly goat and beef. For those who don’t want to eat beef or goat, don’t worry! There are two other variations that you can try which are the ‘Kuku Choma which is made with chicken and ‘samaki choma’, a fish-based version of the dish.
However, this dish is not just simply cuts of meat thrown into a grill. Before they’re ready to get cooked, they need to be perfectly seasoned first to ensure that every flavour seeps in the meat and not just in the skin.
The common favourite cut of meat that locals love when eating this dish is the one with the most fat and grizzle as they tend to hold more flavour inside them. The dish is then served alongside a pile of salt where you can dip each piece of meat for an extra layer of flavour.
If you don’t like the taste of roasted meat, you can opt for the fried option which is the same dish with the difference being that it’s fried instead of roasted.
Kenya knows how to make use of its variety of meat and it’s perfectly exemplified with their Kenyan Stew. In this soulful and hearty stew, different cuts of meat are thrown into a pot of delicious ingredients until it reaches a tender state and soaks up all of the flavours. The type of meat used to create this dish may vary but the vegetable used to give flavour to the overall stew remains the same.
The ingredients and vegetables used to create this dish include:
As for the meat, you can either choose beef, goat or chicken stew. Regardless of which kind of meat you choose, you’ll still be getting a delicious stew that’s packed with different flavours and textures.
Matoke (Plantain Banana Stew)
Matoke is a popular banana-based dish in Uganda and because of its massive success and fame among locals, it made its way to Kenya not long after. Today, it’s one of the most widely beloved dishes in the country as well.
When people think of bananas in a dish, they’ll most likely incorporate them in a desert. However, Matoke uses plantain as the main ingredient of a delicious stew and it surprisingly works well! At first, you may seem sceptical but trust us, once you taste this dish, you’ll thank yourself for it.
Matoke is made by cooking plantains in a pot along with some other ingredients such as oil, tomatoes, garlic, chilli and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Some people also add meat but that’s entirely up to your taste.
You’ll know when the dish is finished cooking once the banana starts to cook and soften to the point that it turns into a thick sauce that mixes with the other ingredients in the pot. Once it finishes cooking, the result is a flavourful and unique tasting dish that’s sure to captivate your taste buds. It is then served alongside a plate of rice, ugali or chapati.
Chapati is a staple dish in Kenyan cuisine as it’s one of the most common and beloved side dishes that complete the dining experiences of main dishes. However, that’s not to say that they’re not good to eat by themselves as they’re also a treat!
This world-renowned dish can be traced back to the Egyptian Indus Valley civilisation 5000 years ago. However, the locals of Kenya tweaked a few things about it to make it their own. The Kenya way of making Chapati involves a flour dough that’s rolled flat using a coil.
To achieve its crispy texture, the dough is then fried in a skillet filled with an ample amount of cooking oil. This method helps the dough develop a crispy crust while retaining the moist on the inside.
This side dish can then be served along with some of the most famous local dishes in Kenya. However, it’s best combined with beans and fried cabbage. If you’re having a lazy afternoon, you can also accompany yourself with a cup of tea served alongside this delicious fried dough.
Kenyan Pilau (Spiced Rice)
Aside from meat-based dishes and various types of stew, Kenyan locals also know their way around rice and the best example for this is the Kenyan Pilau. At first glance, this dish is essentially a dish featuring spiced rice but it’s more than that. To achieve the fragrant and tasty nature of Kenyan Pilau, the rice should first be seasoned well and cooked with local spices such as cumin, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom.
There’s nothing quite like a pile of Kenyan Pilau served with some of the best local stews in Kenya. You can also use diced onions and tomatoes to add more texture and flavour to the already delicious spiced rice.
If you’re visiting the coastal area of Kenyan Pilau, you may encounter another variation of this dish which is called the Biryani. The difference between the two is that this rice-based dish is mixed along with cuts of meat such as chicken, beef, lamb, etc. Both of these dishes are best served hot.
Kachumbari (Tomatoes and Onions)
Kachumbari is more of a dip or a side dish rather than an actual main dish. However, it’s one of the best accompaniment dishes that you can have in Kenya. The ingredients for this dish couldn’t be simpler which is why almost every household have this at their disposal.
To make a delicious Kachumbari, you need to gather the following ingredients first:
- Chilli pepper.
Then, these ingredients will then be sliced and mixed to form a salsa-like consistency that serves as a delicious accompaniment to beans and other local delicacies.
If you’re craving some french fries in Kenya, there are two options that you can choose from. The first one is the Kenyan Bajias which is a variety of the original dish that came from India.
With this dish, potatoes are sliced into fries and are tossed in the batter to prepare them for deep frying. They are then seasoned with some local spices and to top it all of, it’s served with a nice bowl of Kenyan tomato salsa.
The other dish that you can try if you’re craving french fries is the Masala Chips. With this dish, deep-fried fries acts as the base and various ingredients are thrown on top of it making it an overloaded plate of flavours.
Githeri (Beans and Corn)
If you want a dish that you can serve alongside chapati that’s easy yet delicious you need to try the Githeri. This local favourite is made by combining greens, corn kernels and boiled beans in a bowl. The result is a nutritious and tasty filling that can be used to fill chapati which is a match made in heaven.
Irio (Mashed Peas and Potato Mix)
Once you step foot in Kenya, one of the dishes that you’re going to bump into several times is Irio. This is one of the most famous dishes across Kenya and we can easily see why.
The main highlight of this dish is the mashed potatoes and peas that are mixed with corn kernels making resulting in an interesting texture and flavour. This dish acts as a great accompaniment to dishes such as ‘nyama choma’ or any other kind of stew in the country.
Ugali (Cornmeal Staple)
When it comes to Kenyan delicacies, no other dish perfectly represents the cuisine other than Ugali. Although the dish isn’t anything flashy, it is a staple among locals and they’re commonly found everywhere.
Ugali is made up of cornmeal that is boiled until it forms a paste-like texture. It is then served alongside various dishes with the most common one being stews.
Try our world-renowned dishes today!
Now that you’ve learned the different dishes that perfectly showcases the culinary culture of Kenya, it’s time for you to try them for yourself! Yes, it’s already mouth-watering reading them but trust us, tasting them is a whole different experience. What are you waiting for? Visit Kenya now and partake in the Rusinga Festival to indulge in the country’s local delicacies!