Three Typical Days in the Belly of a Kenyan

One does not fully experience Mnarani, unless you’re a foodie!

Kenyan Food

This article gives deeper insight into the Kenyan culture; especially their food culture. Generally meat is quite expensive in Kenya, and for that reason meals are often chosen for their nutritional value. Check out these typical Kenyan meals, and see how many of them you can indulge in the next time you visit Mnarani.

Kenyan Fresh Produce Market

Kick-start your day with a delicious and filling breakfast, jam-packed with essential nutrients.

Porridge breakfast

Traditionally, porridge is served in a calabash, and most Kenyans start their day with a bowl of porridge. ‘Uji’ is a rich and thick porridge made from sorghum and millet. Some call it the breakfast of champions, as many important daily vitamins and nutrients are consumed in this manner. Some of the local Restaurants serve Uji.

Calabash Bowl

The Arrowroot Breakfast

Arrowroot is referred to locally as ‘nduma’ and is another breakfast-favourite in Kenya. Many believe in boiling them, but some swear by deep frying this delicious fibre-rich starch. Nduma is served with tea or coffee.

Deep Fried Chips Made From Arrowroot
Deep Fried Chips Made From Arrowroot

The not-so-nutritious, but oh-so-delicious exception

Mandazi or mahimbri is the Kenyan version of a doughnut crossed with a “Cinnabon”. The one is made with yeast, and the other with self-raising flour. The light blend of cinnamon, all-spice, ginger and other spices merge into the odd-shaped happiness, which is a mandazi. Often times the mandazi are placed in bag of powdered sugar to add that extra bit of magic. Mandazi are usually enjoyed at breakfast, and many street vendors have mastered the craft of creating the best mandazi.

Mandazi Doghnuts

Lunch and Dinner: Day 1

For lunch, a good hearty serving of nyama choma beef, green vegetables and ugali. Nyama choma is an African way of grilling beef. Supplemented with crunchy fresh green veggies on the side. Cabbage, kales, spinach and broccoli are found in abundance throughout Kenya. Ugali is enjoyed with many meals, and is one of the main forms of starch in Kenya. Ugali is similar to maize porridge, with added millet flour or sorghum, which is cooked in milk or water until it forms a dough-like consistency.

Nyama Choma Served With Ugali

For dinner, Githeri mixed with potatoes is recommended. Githeri is a mixture of maize, tomatoes, beans and sometimes potatoes. Beans are well-known for their nutritional properties, as they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and complex fibre and proteins. Boiled to perfection, this is a wholesome and hearty dinnertime meal.


Lunch and Dinner: Day 2

It’s a wonder that people haven’t written songs about Kenya’s Chapatis! For lunch, a Chapati (like no other you’ve ever tasted), with a scrumptious meat stew is a must. The magic is in the kneading. Kenyans have a specific method of kneading the dough (flour, water, sugar, salt and oil) to ensure the Chapatis are soft and delicious, and it is important to avoid cooking over too high heat, as this can make the Chapatis hard. Practice makes perfect, but for now we prefer leaving this to the experts.

Kenyan Chapati

For dinner, we would probably have Chapatis again! Although Kenyans would likely opt for something like pilau. Pilau is a richly flavoured rice dish that is well-known in East Africa, and Swahili regions throughout Africa. Pilau is often enjoyed as a vegetarian/vegan dish, and even meat-lovers enjoy the spicy blend of flavours and aromas (not hot spicy, but a spice-heaven). The different seasonings are gently sautéed to unleash the flavour, after which the rice is added and cooked for about two minutes. The final ingredient is coconut milk and/or broth. After 20 minutes of simmering, happiness is served.


Lunch and Dinner: Day 3

Matoke might seem a bit unusual, but this starchy meal is sure to leave your belly satisfied. Interestingly enough, green bananas consists of 70% to 80% starch, which reduces to only 1% as the bananas ripen. Bananas also lose some of their nutritional value as they ripen; but they don’t lose their potassium. To make Matoke, bananas or plantains are harvested while green, carefully peeled, and then cooked. Sometimes the bananas are wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed in a pot over the fire. After cooking, the bananas are mashed, or crushed into a meal.

Green Bananas

Matoke goes by many different names and works very well with a curry, or a meat stew. There are many variations, such as grilling the bananas in hot oil and lemon juice before cooking, or adding peanut sauce to the Matoke. Matoke can also be turned into a mouth-watering breakfast and is also well-known in Uganda and Tanzania.


Dinner is served. Mashed beans, corn, potatoes and greens, also known as Mukimo. Remember, don’t judge a book by its cover. The harmony that these ingredients create, makes for one satisfied palette. Mukimo is often enjoyed with fish, especially in the coastal areas where fresh seafood is in abundance.


Last, but definitely not least: Desserts and Beverages

Crunchy N’Dizi – Bananas are chopped into thick slices or chunks and steamed for a few seconds, just until heated through. The bananas are then drained, rolled in melted butter, and finally, individually rolled in crushed nuts. The final step is to place them in the oven for 15 minutes, and serve with ice-cream. N’Dizi also works beautifully for decorating a banana cake or loaf.

Crunchy N’Dizi

Brandy snaps come from the British; but have become a firm Kenyan favourite. Butter, sugar, corn syrup and ground ginger is stirred over slow heat until mixed and then cooled for 10 minutes before going into the oven. They are removed from the oven once flat, and then rolled into tubes while the mixture is still relatively warm and flexible. Brandy is mixed with cream and placed inside the tubes. This works perfectly with berries or a bit of chocolate.

Brandy Snaps

Ya maziwa lala translates to ‘dairy milk’ in English, and is a sweet mango and yoghurt pudding. Just to give you an idea of the yumminess that awaits, ya maziwa lala has been featured in The World Cookbook: The Greatest Recipes from Around the Globe.  It is prepared with yoghurt, cream cheese, cardamom and ripe mangoes, and decorated with sprinkled nutmeg or nuts.

Ya maziwa lala (Sweet Mango and Joghurt Pudding)

It’s safe to say that a separate ‘foodie bucket list’ is in order.

Let us know what weird and yummy meals or treats you’ve enjoyed while visiting Kenya in the comments below.


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