Nyama Choma – From the Carcass, Onto the Grill, Into Your Mouth (WARNING: Serious Meat Photos)

By Mark Wiens 35 Comments
Fresh goat, slaughtered just a few moments before!
Fresh goat, slaughtered just a few moments before!

Of all the flavors I can remember as a kid growing up in Kenya

I’ll never ever forget that meaty, gamey, fleshy, all-na-tur-all bursting taste that can only result from a free-range, grass grazed goat that’s been freshly slaughtered, and slow roasted on a grill made from metal fencing that hovers over a bed of charcoal.

Nyama choma (roasted meat)!

And while you can occasionally get beef or chicken, goat remains the local favorite (known as mbuzi choma or roasted goat).

My chunk of goat being hacked off the carcass!
My chunk of goat being hacked off the carcass!

I’ve written about nyama choma (especially that article about where to eat the best nyama choma in Nairobi) a number of times already throughout the years of Migrationology, but there’s always room for another lip-licking article on East African style roasted goat, right!?

So while in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, one day we headed out of town, a bit to the outskirts, to a home (more like a little shack with a big yard filled with trees) that opens up on Sunday each week for a goat nyama choma roast.

It’s basically just a home that opens its doors to slaughter goats and roast them on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Yes, as you might guess, the clientele is dominated by males. And let me tell you, it was an awesome and intense Tanzanian nyama choma experience!

Chopping goat
Chopping goat

How do you order Nyama Choma?

The first step is to tell the butcher how much meat you want and from what part of carcass you’d like it from. He’ll take the dangerously sharp machete (or panga) and hack off a chunk of goat flesh.

In our case, there were two of us eating (my wife on the other hand wasn’t so interested), so we ordered 1 kilo of the freshest Tanzanian goat!

He’ll first cut off your chunk of meat and proceed to weigh it on the scale to confirm the correct amount.

Salting up the nyama
Salting up the nyama

The butcher then grabs a bag of of both salt and MSG (yup that’s right), and generously anoints the meat, coating it in all its crevices.

Preparation stage complete, the nyama choma is ready to join the other hunks of goat already slow roasting over the hot coals.

Nyama Choma
Nyama Choma

Cooking Nyama Choma

In East Africa, nyama choma is meant to be slow roasted. The coals are kept very low and then covered in ash so they don’t cook the meat too fast.

The grill, which is normally some kind of jua kali homemade creation, is often covered by metal fencing material that gives the nyama choma a convenient roasting bed.

Slow roasting the mbuzi choma
Slow roasting the mbuzi choma

Goat is fatty, so as it slow roasts, the meat releases droplets of oil that sizzle and flame up the fire – this is one of the reasons for keeping a low heat – so the fire doesn’t flame up too much.

The beautiful sizzle of roasting goat meat
The beautiful sizzle of roasting goat meat

Hopefully the red paint from the griddle came off on someone else’s meat long before!

The nyama choma grill
The nyama choma grill

On most nyama choma grills in East Africa, you’ll be able to see the entire animal either on the grill or scattered somewhere around the butcher house, waiting for someone to order it.

Goat stomachs and all the organs were being roasted, as lots of hungry and tipsy men licked their lips in anticipation of the nyama choma!

The pot of goat soup
The pot of goat soup

This particular restaurant is also extremely well known for their goat soup.

It basically begins with a pot full of water, and the cook adds nearly all the organs of the goat, along with some giant chunks of white fat, and lots of salt.

Sitting over a fire, the soup then boils and cooks for a few hours before it’s ready to be served. A bowl of oily goat soup is normally eaten with chilies and lemon to garnish.

This time I didn’t have any soup, but we just waited for our nyama choma.

Chopping up our nyama choma
Chopping up our nyama choma

After about an hour and a half, the butcher gave me the nod, and indicated that our nyama choma was roasted to perfection and ready to be chopped into bite sized pieces.

Slicing it up!
Slicing it up!

Using the same raw meat cutting board (of course), he then sliced through the meat with an extremely sharp knife, making the meat look like it was soft as butter (definitely not the case).

Meat on the bottom, then the bones and fat
Meat on the bottom, then the bones and fat

Our wonderful plate of freshly roasted nyama choma (mbuzi choma), grew and grew until the entire 1 kilo was piled high into a mountain of the best Tanzanian nyama choma.

Tanzanian nyama choma in served!
Tanzanian nyama choma in served!

Since the process often takes 1 hour or even longer until the meat is fully cooked, nyama choma is a social meal where, typically men, gather to drink some beer and wait for the meat to finish cooking.

Many hang out for hours, enjoying beer after beer, and when the meat comes, slowly digging in piece by piece.

Served with a pile of salt (chumvi) on the side, a few wedges of lemon, and some tomato chili sauce, our nyama choma pyramid was delivered to our wooden stool makeshift table.

Nyama choma time!
Nyama choma time!

My friend Kabila and I couldn’t hold back any longer, the aroma of the goat meal luring us in like Sirens.

When it comes to Tanzanian food or Kenyan food, nyama choma is the cream of the crop, one of the most popular dishes, especially for men.

Nyama choma
Nyama choma

How does nyama choma taste?

The first thing to know is that nyama choma does NOT slide off the bone.

It’s not that tenderly wimpy meat that gets babied and massaged into a buttery creature. Nyama choma is the REAL deal.

It has some serious texture to it, you can actually taste and feel the grains of a goat that’s been running around Africa, munching on grass and grazing.

Eating nyama choma is an extreme sport, it is an intense jaw workout, and since I’m out of practice myself, though I’m a little embarrassed to admit, I actually got a little sore from eating this nyama choma!

The flavor was outstanding! I could actually taste the animal and the naturalness of the meat. A little squeeze of lemon, a slice of pili pili mbuzi (chili pepper), and I felt like I was back at home, thoroughly enjoying every chew of wonderful nyama choma.

I’ve had plenty of African friends that have visited the USA and have told me they don’t like the meat, because it just has no flavor and is way too soft.

Once you eat a fresh plate of nyama choma, running around one minute, on the grill the next, and into your mouth, you’ll understand.

The Sunday afternoon nyama choma goat roast
The Sunday afternoon nyama choma goat roast

Jaw worn out, and stomach full of pure delicious nyama choma, I sat back in my plastic chair and patted my belly.

Behind me another live goat was being pulled out of the pen, hauled to the slaughter yard, hung up in the butcher house, and roasted kilo by kilo.

This is the nyama choma experience!

1 kilo of nyama choma cost us 8,000 TZS ($4.84).



35 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Joseph

    1 year ago

    That’s what we do back home in the province of the Phillippines. we roast parts of the goat with just salt for flavor…we then dip it to lemon or vinegar with chilli.

  • Arnold

    2 years ago

    Great article Mark! Can you please let us know how to find this place? I’d like to go during my last Sunday in Dar!! Thanks!

  • Acquiline Mlulla

    3 years ago

    Happy to see this.. I love Nyama Choma.. I do organise CHICKEN WINGS BONANZA event in Dar es Salaam Tanzania.. Karibu Tanzania..

  • Simon Thuku

    3 years ago

    I i love this, Nyama choma is my favourite, cant miss it over a weekend..

  • Hannah

    3 years ago

    Reading this made me remember nyama choma I had when staying with Maasai people in Southern Kenya. It was incredible- but they literally put half a seasoned goat over the fire on a spit, you then had to carve off hunks with a knife and eat it. Oh man, I want some now!

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Great to hear from you Hannah, glad this brought back some good memories for you, and that sounds delicious!

  • safaris in tanzania

    4 years ago

    Yummy yummy…… Here we say Tamu Sana!!!!!. It looks so sweet, believe me you filled saliva in my mouth with the mouthwatering photos. Wow..

  • Gabriel

    4 years ago

    I was expecting to see a lot more graphic with the warning lol, but then again I guess I’m dulled down to it because right down the street from our place they hang skinned pigs, sometimes not, sometimes just the heads etc. Great shots of the preparation though.

  • Annette | Bucket List Journey

    4 years ago

    That is some serious meat! Looks like Nyama choma needs to be on my list of things to eat!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Thanks Annette, if you love meat you’re going to love nyama choma!

  • Mike | Earthdrifter

    4 years ago

    I had no idea that Tanzania is such a meat lover’s paradise. Very interesting how the quality (freshness, free range) of the flesh food in less wealthy African lands is better than what we get in the richer US.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Mike, yes, though meat is a luxury for many, those who can afford it, do love meat. And I’ve thought about that same thing too.

  • rogan

    4 years ago

    Another great article! I love a good gamey goat. Nyama choma looks perrrrfect! Thanks for doing what you do.

  • Ian

    4 years ago

    As a Kenyan, I’m very proud to see Nyama Choma being given the spotlight here.
    Nairobi West and Kenyatta Market are my main joints for enjoying it.
    Good work, Mark!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Thank you Ian! Yes, was at Kenyatta Market a few days ago and can still taste that nyama choma!

  • esperago

    4 years ago

    Holy Hanna! I can’t believe you ate the meat after it sat on the tainted cutting board. I wouldn’t have made it through the night!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Yah, it’s not he cleanest environment, I’ve never had a problem though!

  • Colleen

    4 years ago

    Fascinating! = )

  • Raymond Waruhari

    4 years ago

    Actually you have made me to stop what am doing to go and grab some nyama choma. I never used to know that their is nyama choma Festival in Dar es Salaam.