Kenya is a country made up of many different tribes and thus there are numerous customs and traditions that exist there. Though they differ slightly depending on the tribe or region of Kenya, there are several “staple” foods that most Kenyans eat.
The most common of these Kenyan foods is ugali. Ugali is made with maize flour and water, and when it is finished cooking, it becomes a spongy, white substance that is rolled up with your fingers and then mixed with greens or stew. This is a great meal option for all Kenyans because it is fairly inexpensive and easy to make.
A more expensive, but popular staple food in Kenya is rice. Rice is paired with most anything – beans, vegetables, meat, stew, or lentils. A special favorite is “rice pilau” in which spices are added to the rice along with chunks of meat.
The most popular meats in Kenya are goat, sheep, chicken, fish, and beef. Beef is the least expensive meat available and Kenyans usually don’t waste any part of the meat, like us Americans do. Nyama Choma is an especially popular type of grilled goat meat that is often served in restaurants.
Chapati is another favorite among Kenyans. This is a tortilla-like flat bread made with water, flour, oil, and salt. Some cannot afford to eat chapati often, so it is a special treat whenever it is made. Chapati is also usually a favorite among P82 teams who visit Kenya.
As far as beverages go, Kenyans are known for their love of chai—which is not the same as “chai” in America, but is the word for tea in Swahili. It is very rare to go to a meeting or to visit someone’s home without being offered chai. Chai is usually made with fresh cow’s milk, water, sugar, and tea leaves which are grown in Kenya. Coffee is grown in Kenya also, but it is usually exported and is not nearly as popular as chai.
Most parts of Kenya are very fertile, so vegetable gardens are common. If you do not have your own garden, outdoor markets and fruit/vegetable stands are many, so you will almost always be able to buy cabbage, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, carrots, peppers, garlic, bananas, oranges, avocados, mangoes, etc.
Some unexpected food choices in parts of Kenya include termites and cow’s blood. When it begins raining in Kenya, many termites emerge. They are often caught and fried for a protein-rich treat. The Maasai tribe is traditionally known for consuming cow’s blood by either mixing it with milk or drinking it alone. They do this during special occasions or rituals and believe that it makes a person healthier and stronger.
Although Kenyan food does not offer the variety that we are accustomed to in the United States, it is delicious, fresh, and nutrient-rich!