Kenyan Street Food with a Homemade Touch!

It was lunch time, I was hungry, and I wasn’t going to settle for a deep fried withered up piece of soggy chicken and chips.  Walking around Adam’s Arcade, an original shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya, I eyed a number of taxi drivers and a fruit vendor, sitting on the curb chowing down on the exact plate of food I wanted.

I approached the joyfully eating cab driver who looked up with surprise when I asked him where to follow in his footsteps.  He smiled and said, “she will come, she is just here, the mama who makes the food comes around and takes the order (this could mean almost anything in Africa).”

I must have looked a little forlorn as I aimlessly waited for the mama to come, because moments later the taxi driver, put his plate on his seat and said, “come!”

He lead me past a couple of dukas (street convenience stores), around a corner, and there in the dirt, on the side of the chain link fence was exactly what I was looking for!

street-food-nairobi

Her restaurant was small, a humble assortment of dishes wrapped in plastic bags and plastic containers and carried in baskets to the side of the street, just off Ngong Road, Nairobi.

basket-kenyan-food

I greeted the mama with enthusiasm.

kenyan-food

street-food-kenya

I’ve eaten my share of ugali (Kenyan staple of cornmeal mixed into a mush) throughout my years living in East Africa, and given a choice between rice, the Asian in me usually goes with rice.

kenyan-street-food

Margaret told me the dishes of the day to which I ordered the combo plate.  Rice, beans mixed with kernels of corn, sukuma wiki (green veg), cabbage with potatoes, and a little bit of grizzly beef stew for flavor. Local Nairobi food is not exactly known for being the tastiest, though if it is cooked well, without too much oil, it can be delicious.

nairobi-street-food

The dishes are cooked simple, a little bit of oil, some tomatoes and onions, salt and pepper, and a hint of mchuzi mix (Kenyan secret to delicious food) for seasoning!

I began to consume my lunch, sitting on a old car tire and enjoying every bite.  The food was lukewarm, yet it was cooked by Margaret with her own hands as a humble business to provide for her family.  The food was delicious.

kenyan-food-nairobi

Price: 80 KSH (about 1 USD)

Where to Eat this Lunch (she should be here, but there’s no way to be certain)


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Comments

  1. says

    Oh wow, street food at the truest sense! I am assuming your stomach was fine afterward? And given the (stereotype) temperature/weather in Nairobi, the food that (I am guessing) was cooked in the morning was still fine by lunchtime?

  2. Christy @ Technosyncratic says

    You know, I really wish this kind of thing (food cooked by local folks available on the street) was more common in the U.S. I know, I know – it’s an issue of health regulations and all that jazz, but home-cooked food is usually just SO GOOD. And often healthier than restaurant fare. AND it could provide a flexible and independent source of income for women who aren’t in the full-time job market for whatever reason….

  3. says

    @Jeruen: Hehe, yes my stomach was fine after eating. Growing up in that area made my stomach quite used to the germs, but it definitely could be of some concern, she just sort of rinses out the dishes in between eaters.

    @Christy: I fully agree, it would be great! The problem I see is that so many people have lost their sense of trust with strangers in the US, so it might be harder to sell the food.

    @2Summer: Thanks a lot!

    @Ayngelina: Thanks Ayngelina!
    @

  4. says

    Great review, I want to have a throw down with the guy who took you to meet the chef. Taxi drivers always know the spots for the real munch. And that sukuma wiki you guy shoooot… missing it sometimes man.

  5. says

    Mark, when I first looked at the photos and how she was cooking this, I was quite hesitant. If that was me, I am not sure I would have stopped. However, the meal looks pretty good! How do you decide whether something like this is healthy/safe before you choose to eat? Or is this not something people think about there?

  6. says

    Great piece! I’m doing a fundraiser for an organization this month that works with youth in Kenya and hip-hop to promote safe sex and educate about HIV/AIDS. Now I have an idea about what to have catered for the event ;)

  7. says

    @Joel: Yah dude, taxi driver’s are usually the types that hang out and eat on their down time…especially in Kenya!

    @Inka: Thanks so much Inka!

    @Jeremy: Yah, for the most part, people wouldn’t think of any health concerns from food like this. The food itself is cooked well done, and it’s quite simple, so I think it is quite safe. The only problem could be the water used to rinse dishes. This could be a valid concern with foreigners, but not really with locals so much. I go with the approach that if the food looks fresh enough (cooked the same day) I’ll always try it out!

  8. says

    I have to be honest the first photos didn’t look appealing but the last one made my mouth water. The best thing about her spot is that she does not have to pay rent!

  9. says

    Wow, who would have known that delicious looking close-up would be buried in tupperware on the dirt floor? Another instance of “don’t judge a book by its cover!”

  10. says

    @Grace: Hehe, the packaging is not the greatest, but the contents are amazing!

    @The Dropout: Awesome!

    @Christine: Right about that! The food inside was clean and delicious!

  11. says

    The food that you got on the side of a road looked more appetizing than what I see in a lot of restaurants. The fact that it only cost a buck makes it ab fab!

  12. joshywashington says

    oooooh, that looks legit! Nice little road side picnic going on there, now all you need is a beer and some ice cream!

  13. parrotalk says

    stumble into yr stories and fotos great. lovely positive openminded view of Africa and ordinary lives. thanx. As for the cynics . none of the locals have got sick ! some London restsurant kitchens are dirtier! in any case the food is normally cooked to it’s last breath. it’s fresh coz most kenyans can’t afford fridges. the basis foodstuffs are cooked from
    m fresh and not packagesor frozen!! tastiest nyama choma I ate was from tin shacks!

  14. says

    @Ruth: Yes, delicious!

    @Renee: For sure, home cooked by a Mother!

    @Joshy: There were definitely some crates of beer right around the corner, but the ice cream would have made it great too!

    @Parrotalk: Thanks for the comment, Yes, the food she cooked was very sanitary, fully cooked right in her home. Everything is well done, so apart from the water, there’s not real way to get sick. I haven’t gotten sick yet with many many meals like this!

  15. parrotalk says

    @Matt
    absolutely love this site. will be checking in when I miss Kenya.
    please keep posting those heartwarming stories and pics..
    already sharing about the website to my friends too…

  16. says

    wow that looks amazing, but I can’t imagine food looking that good coming from there. I would love ot try it sometime and I’m sure I will get out there eventually.

    Keep up the excellent posting, and I hope to be able to say I’ve tried this in the near future.

    • says

      Hey Jo!
      Yes, though the outside packaging wasn’t the prettiest, what she pulled out of her bag was very clean and freshly cooked! Hope you can make it to Kenya someday!

  17. Tia Brock says

    The food that you got on the side of a road looked more appetizing than what I see in a lot of restaurants. Great piece! Wow, who would have known that delicious looking close-up would be buried in tupperware on the dirt floor?

  18. Ruby Small says

    Keep up the excellent posting, and I hope to be able to say I’ve tried this in the near future. Love the close ups of the food, looks delicious. will be checking in when I miss Kenya. The food that you got on the side of a road looked more appetizing than what I see in a lot of restaurants.

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