Ashish just returned from a trip to his first home… Kenya, where he was born. He was in Nairobi with a small group and he took them to a place near his old neighborhood to introduce them to some of the foods familiar from his childhood. They went to the Mint Shack for some street food.
“It just a few blocks from where I was born. The food is called Karogi, Swahili for street food,” said Ashish. “The Parklands is where Swahili street food meets Indian street food. Everything is cooked on open hot rocks and nothing has a written recipe.”
While Nairobi has an active restaurant scene, it does not have a reputation for its street foods as some major cities do, but Kenyans love it.
Many Kenyan dishes have Indian influences, such as samosas and kuku paka, which is coconut chicken curry.
Maize grows abundantly in the rural areas so roasted corn or makai is readily available from food stalls. White maize is roasted and charred on a wire mesh, and served with lime dipped in chili salt. It is wrapped and served in its original green husk so it can be devoured piping hot.
In the morning, look around for mandazi, a sweet, sugar-coated doughnut with a touch of cardamom and sweet coconut milk. Covered in icing sugar, it is wickedly good.
Ugali, cornmeal, is a staple and the most common Kenyan food basic, usually made from cornmeal that is boiled and heated until it becomes a dense block of cornmeal paste. Ugali has the consistency of a grainy dough and very heavy. For many Kenyans, ugali along with a small amount of cooked vegetables or saucy stew is a normal meal.
Sukumawiki, collard greens, is one of the most popular vegetable Kenyan dishes and often eaten with ugali. Collard greens/kale is a nutritious green leafy vegetable often cooked in oil with diced tomatoes and onions, and flavored with a sprinkle of a Kenyan mix called mchuzi. The mix is a combination of everyday spices including garlic powder, paprika, turmeric, coriander, cummin, coriander, salt, fennel as well as vegetable oil and corn flour.
Potato bhajia is a staple Kenyan street food, also known as Maru Bhajiya, battered potato in Swahili. The original Asia bhajia, came to the country through the arriving Indian population that were settling in the country. Sliced potatoes are battered and spiced with cumin seeds and turmeric and then deep fried. It is often served with Kenyan tomato salsa. Favorites such as samosas and kuku paka, a coconut chicken curry, were also introduced into the culinary scene from India.
You can also try brown-and-white-striped crisps called Dumo Kachri, Zebra crisps. No, it doesn’t include zebras. Made from local arrowroot, or dumo, and thinly sliced and fried to reveal its beautifully colored interior. Seasoned simply with salt, these savory delights become super-crispy and take on an incredible nutty flavor.
Mukimo is a mix of potatoes, corn and green vegetables such as cow peas and rose cocoa beans. This dish is served at events, from wedding to funerals. Mukimo is commonly served with meat or chicken stew.
Kenyans are also meat eaters, of course, and common foods include kebabs. Some have vegetables, while others offer spicy meat on skewers. Mutura is a Kenyan sausage made with meat, spices and sometimes blood. It is roasted on an open grill, but vendors vary in how they prepare it. It is often presented along with bone soup, a popular local dish.
This is just a sampling of Kenyans’ favorite dishes. Every country has its own individual personality when it comes to its street foods, but whether it’s a taco stand or a Zebra crisps stall, it’s all worth a try.
We all have stories of friends, family, clients – and even ourselves – who need last-minute trip arrangements or those of us who procrastinate filling in the needed forms or waiting too long to get the required vaccinations. It sometimes feels like this is exacerbated during the busiest times of year. Here are a few basic points to remember when facing tight deadlines:
Where? Destination matters
First, make sure that you can get to the place you long to be. Check the prices and, more importantly, the availability of seats on specific flights you will need. If the seats are limited, you may need to be prepared to buy now or risk staying home.
Expect a challenge or two
Depending on destination and time of year, you may need to be a more flexible than you might like when it comes to the logistics and your hotel choices. The best accommodations, whether that’s a five-star lodge or a spectacular camp site, are likely be booked early. But with a little patience, you can often come up with surprisingly delightful alternatives that you might never have discovered otherwise.
Do your homework
Yes, even last-minute usually requires some research. For international travel, make sure you check all entry requirements, especially the potential need for visas and required inoculations prior to your travel. Also, check that passport for the expatriation date and insure it has at least three blank visa pages.
Be open to new experiences, especially unplanned
Much of the fun in travel is encountering the unexpected, particularly if you are going off the well-worn path. These areas are usually less known and less crowded, and may have less developed infrastructure but are often unexpectedly attractive, offer unique experiences and are available!
You need to give your travel professional time to work at finding and clearing the spaces. The holidays or any busy season requires a little extra patience and tolerance… And carry with you the most powerful tool you have, a welcome smile.
If you are looking for a few suggestions, we still have limited space in Nicaragua, Peru, Australia, Chile and Guatemala. Feel free to contact us about your favorite place. Safe travels.
This started out as an average day on safari in Kenya (as if any day on safari in Kenya could be considered average). Ashish was meeting with the COO of Lewa Conservancy, the first rhino sanctuary in Kenya founded by the Craig family and the late Anna Merz, who Ashish’s father knew.
Ashish and his guide Benson were in a safari vehicle when another vehicle was headed towards them from the opposite direction. He noticed a dog in the vehicle and thought he recognized it. Then he realized who was in the front seat. Quite by chance and much to Ashish’s surprise, one of his personal heroes, noted conservationist, Sir Ian Craig, co-founder of the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), drove past. Ashish and Benson turned around their vehicle, scrapped the game drive and caught up with the other vehicle.
Ian Craig stepped out and welcomed Ashish with a smile. Ashish was able to share with him some of the steps that Big Five is taking to support Africa’s wildlife, including equipment he was delivering to fellow NRT member at Sera Conservancy’s anti-poaching team.
That is how Ashish met his hero, 27 years after hearing his name. The Craig family founded The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy near Mount Kenya more than three decades ago when rhinos were facing serious poaching threats. The work to protect the rhino was the catalyst that led to Lewa’s beginnings. Since 1983, Lewa has provided a safe home for rhinos. As the first and the leading pioneer in private rhino sanctuary in East Africa, Lewa’s black rhino population has grown from an initial 15 to 169 black rhinos today and 98 Southern White Rhino without a major poaching incident in six years, one of the best and most inspiring success stories in Africa. In turn, this has created a vital habitat for other species including the endangered Grevy’s zebra, elephant, lion, cheetah and giraffe.
The NRT is a non-profit that supports community wildlife and land conservancy groups. As one of the successful sanctuaries for rhinos, Lewa is working with a growing number of partners across Kenya and Africa. Together, they share “a common mandate to help the rhino rise out of near-extinction and push the boundaries of what is possible in conservation.”
For more about Big Five’s commitment to conservation, visit safaritours.com