Imagine travelling miles into the vibe that is Kenya and going back to your home country without having sampled any of our go-to street food; bummer, right?
If there’s anything that you can write home about, it is definitely our street food culture. A host to varied tastes, the Kenyan street food culture tells a story. A story of our towns, their occupants’ history and diverse cultures represented therein. The tasty bites you will sample are also adapted to suit the trends and needs of the consumers. In Nairobi for instance, residents are always in search of affordable alternatives in order to survive the demanding urban lifestyle. In this case, street grub is what is sustaining the masses in the city.
What bites should you look forward to munching on whilst in Nairobi? Glad you asked…
1. Mutura (Kenyan Sausage)
If we were to run a poll on what Nairobians would deem the go to street food in the city, our best bet would be Mutura. This popular “evening” snack enjoyed by the roadside after work hours over the grill (some may argue that it’s secret ingredient is darkness; The darkness and smoke from the grill serves for a wholesome experience) originates from the Kikuyu tribe.
Mutura (Kenyan Sausage) is made from the large and small intestines of cows, goats or sheep. These intestines are thoroughly cleaned and then stuffed with blood, boiled assorted organ meats and some vegetables for more flavor. Some vendors may include ground beef. To spice up the Mutura goodness, sample it with a serving of “firi firi” kachumbari (a salad made up of diced tomatoes, onions, coriander, cayenne pepper (optional) and sprinkled lemon).
Estimated cost – As low as KES 20.00 or $0.20
2. Mahindi Choma (Roasted maize)
Maize, or corn if you like, is very common in the streets of Nairobi. This is green maize that is roasted (popularly goes by mahindi choma) or boiled on the cob.
The boiled variety is best enjoyed with a sprinkle of salt while the grilled one is spiced up with lemon and ground pepper.
There is no particular joint for roasted maize vendors, you are likely to spot them by the roadside from the late afternoon hours in downtown Nairobi and within the estates.
Estimated cost – As low as KES 10.00 or $0.10 (you can either get the entire cob or have it cut down into pieces according to your budget)
3. Muhogo (Boiled and Fried Cassava)
Muhogo (cassava) is a delightful snack you can enjoy either boiled or deep fried.
Both options can be portioned into two parts with some lemon and ground pepper slathered between the two pieces to spice it up.
Estimated cost – KES 20.00 or $0.20
4. Mayai Pasua (Hard Boiled Eggs)
Within the city, you will notice a number of vendors in white lab coats pushing along a metallic trolley with eggs in display. These trolleys are made up of a coal stove underneath that ensures the snacks are kept at an enjoyable temperature.
The “street” boiled eggs go down well with a serving of kachumbari. The vendor will de-shell an egg, slice it in half and stuff it with the salad. Based on preference, you may also get a dash of tomato sauce on your snack.
Aside from trolley vendors, you may also spot some individuals walking along the streets with clear buckets selling eggs. Interesting fact about this snack; you could never replicate it at home no matter how you try, it simply never tastes the same.
Estimated cost – KES 25.00 or $0.25
5. Smokie Pasua (Smoked Sausages)
Smokies are precooked (ready-to-eat) smoked sausages made of pork, beef, chicken or a blend of all these meats and other flavorful inclusions. In popularity, it is perhaps only second to hard boiled eggs.
The name ‘smokie pasua’ translates to a smokie that has been sliced in half (pasua) and filled with Kachumbari. It is often sprinkled with salt and tomato sauce.
Smokies are commonly sold alongside the eggs mentioned above in the metallic trolleys.
Estimated cost – KES25 OR $0.25
This flavorful, deep-fried, triangular snack is the ideal chai partner. Samosa (a pastry with a savory filling) can be sampled two ways; vegetarian or non-vegetarian.
Tracing its roots to the middle east, samosas have a variety of filling options. Within the Nairobi streets however, you will mainly find ground beef samosas for the non-vegetarian or green grams/peas/potato samosas for the vegetarian.
Estimated cost – KES30 OR $0.30
8. Fried Fish
Deliciously crispy, fried fish is commonly found within the estates. Many Kenyans enjoy this as a main meal served alongside our staple “ugali” with veggies on the side. You can also enjoy this on its own; as a ready-to-eat snack right by the vendor’s stand.
Estimated cost – from KES50.00 – KES200.00 or $0.50 -$2.00 (depending on size of fish pieces)
9. Mandazi (fried doughnuts)
Another fantastic tea accompaniment loved in Nairobi is mandazi. Mandazis are a form of deep-fried bread; amazingly soft, triangle-shaped (sometimes square) made from leavened dough.
For some Kenyans, Mandazis are a must-have breakfast treat although you can also enjoy them at any time of the day with a beverage of your choice.
Estimated cost – from KES10.00 or $0.10 (per piece)
10. Chipo Mwitu
We saved the best for last. “Chipo mwitu” is simply french fries/chips depending on where you come from. The term basically describes fries sold by the roadside as opposed to purchasing them from a fast-food restaurant. Chipo is slang for chips and mwitu is a swahili translation for wild; hence fries sourced from the wild.
Chipo mwitu is always an inexpensive option when the fries bug attacks. The fries are normally prepared over a charcoal jiko or firewood. Although the packaging is not the norm of what you would expect at a fast-food joint, its taste however, you can expect will have you coming back for seconds. Yummy!
Estimated cost – As low as KES50.00 or $0.50 – KES100 or $10.00 (prices depend on portion)