Swahilis who live along the Coast prepare an incredible variety of meals using fish, tropical fruits, coconut milk and exotic spices. Many of these reflect the influences of travellers who have touched their shores.
One of the most amazing things I experienced when I travelled to Coast recently was the mouthwatering foods and snacks that made me question man’s existence. I didn’t know we had been missing so much in Nairobi by not indulging more often in more oriental dishes. Even when we travel to Mombasa we miss out on these dishes because we stay at some hotel and eat foods, which may be delicious, but are foods that can also be found in Nairobi at any time. So why not try some or all of these nine tasty treats when you visit the coast next.
1. Viazi Karai! Before you start talking about how viazi karai is readily offered in Nairobi, let me be honest with you, the Nairobi version is mediocre at best. The tomato sauce given as an accompaniment does not bring out the intended flavor. Coast Viazi Karai has three sauces that make it so famous. Ukwaju- made of tamarind sauce and other spices, Tomato paste- a far cry from cheap tomato sauce, this is a thick sauce with actual tomato chunks, Chatini- a sauce made from grated coconut and sour spices.
2. Kashata. This square of deliciousness is made out of dry grated coconut, food colouring and sugar. Colours range from orange, pink and red and the price is just about 5- 20 shillings depending on the size you’re buying. In Mombasa town, they can be found literally anywhere because there are so many food stalls along many of the streets. When you are craving something for a sweet tooth this could not be any more perfect! Though if you don’t like the taste of coconut it might not be for you.
3. Mabuyu. Mabuyu literally translates to “baobab seeds” which is what mabuyu actually is. They are cooked with a nice smelling flavour, food colour and sugar to give them the characteristic colourful look and sweet taste that is mabuyu. Yes I know you can find them in the shops here, but why don’t you buy them often? Because they are not nice. Mabuyu taste better fresh, when they are sweet, chewable, and almost juicy. The mamas on the side of the street in coast sell delicious ones. The weirdest thing though was that my friend who used to live in Mombasa showed us the best place to get tamu mabuyu are in a butchery that is located on the first floor of Nakumatt nyali. He was right. Those were the best mabuyu I have ever tasted in my life! So try them when you go next.
4. Achari. After viazi karai and mabuyu, achari is the third most popular thing about Mombasa and the coast in general. Achari is basically dried mangoes which are at times coloured and sweetened or salted. Some even add pepper to it. The mango adds a sour vibe to the sweetness, giving it a gorgeous contrast that your tongue will appreciate. This is a smart snack to nibble on as you explore and walk around through Mombasa town, and definitely worth buying a few extra packets to carry home to Nairobi.
5. Mahamri. Mahamri tend to be quite a lovely thing to try instead of normal mandazis in that they have added spices for a little extra flavour. They offer an awesome breakfast alternative to the cliché bread and when sold together with Mbaazi za nazi (pigeon peas in coconut extract) as they usually are, they make a filling and very healthy breakfast.
6. Kaimati. These are my favourite! They are little balls of mandazi-like things which are really soft and coated with dried sugar syrup. They are usually sold on the streets in the evenings, and in the mornings, where food tables are set out Story zetu mentions that you can find them especially around Mama Ngina Drive and Mwembe Tayari; though in my experience these run out quick! So you better get yours before everyone else does. You should taste them because they are simply balls of yumminess.
7. Mkate wa Sinai. This is a Mombasa delicacy which tastes wonderfully with tea… It’s a delicious soft cake that has a wonderful silky sieve-like texture and tastes exotic and amazing. The snack is readily found in the busier streets of Mombasa during evenings when people think of what they should get for tomorrows breakfast. Sadly I didn’t get to try it on my last trip to Coast, but definitely on my next one.
8. Biryani. I can’t express to you in words my love for this dish. Biryani, just like Pilau is a rice based dish known for its unique aroma and deliciously spicy flavour. It is basically cooked with spiced chicken, fish, mutton, beef, vegetables, or eggs. My obsession is the chicken biryani. As it is originally of Oriental descent, those on the Coast know how to cook it incredibly.
9. Coconut Curry. I only added this in there because I had it while I was in Coast. Curries may not originate from the Coast but as a lot of the above meals have been an influence immersed into the culture by Asians a long time ago. I had a chicken coconut curry and I do not lie, it was on point! They also had the option of a fish curry among several others. A curry in the Coast should definitely be on your meals to do list.