visuals from the food corner

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At Nakumatt Likoni (in Mombasa) the chocolate is stored in the fridge. A great idea!

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Mombasa: Crispy chips, spicy beef kebap, lots of salads and 5 sauces to choose from.

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Mandazi & other sweets as sold on Mombasa streets. I also tried some delicious Swahili Pizza (egg + minced meat) for 50/= as well as Kabibi, those rice cakes.

The Coast Region really is a culinary delight.

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Back in Embu I was welcomed by oily, half-fried chips. Hmmm.

You see, I met my butcher yesterday and he asked me why I had never come back to his shop. I told him straight away that his meat tasted like OMO and that I would just LOVE to see at least ONE person in this Githeri/Mataahaaa-infested rural town to come up with the smart idea of running a Nyama Choma joint where beef kebap is sold. Those beef cubes / shashlik skewered on a stick. I am sure ppl would buy and love it. Also because those sticks don’t take too long on a grill as mbuzi choma normally takes about 45 minutes or even longer. My butcher liked the idea but of course doesn’t have the funds to start his own Nyama Choma joint.

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Hi, I am an engineer who freelances in water & sanitation-related IT projects at Saniblog.org. You’ll also find me on Twitter @jke and Google+.

11 comments » Write a comment

  1. Ahh! Thats the most hideous plate of fries i ever saw! At first glance it looked like snails or something raw from the sea! I suggest you learn how to cook. I think your a very strong person to pay for and even eat those fries.

  2. Please try and show a picture of the mombasa plate of chips to the Embu guys who had prepared the oily half fried chips – it might just give them a hint of how chips should look like when ready.
    but I think the Embu guys are the ones who first boil their chips in water and then just dip them in some oil afterwards – the theory is it saves on the oil. (just brainstorming on what it takes to do that bad plate of chips!)

  3. Why are we dissing the Embu plate of chips, it aint like it is a 5 star hotel with culinary trained chefs.Give em’a break!

  4. Irena, I am dissing those Embu chips because all it takes is to leave them frying in the oil for a few more minutes. The problem is that these guys preparing them just don’t care. And ppl got used to it. And there are others who are NOT buying those chips because of that very same reason.

    You know I told them about it (I am not just complaining for nothing) and they promised me to make them in JKE’s way the next time. Also, I thought about joining them and showing them some of my recipes, because I KNOW HOW TO COOK and I am ready to share that passion & the taste that seperates them from the rest (aka the competition).

    The chips – and the reason WHY I keep on mentioning them – are just a perfect example, almost a metaphor, which explains the difference between those who care and those who don’t care. It’s about Java House & Co vs. the kawaida stuff. It’s about Kenya advancing even in rural areas and coming up with some creativity which will lure the youth back into shaggz zones.

  5. First of, my concern with this criticism is that we are talking about a mom and pop restaurant. Right? That being the case thus, I’m also assuming that the cook(s) has never had any formal training or is very well travelled or passionate about culinary and knows how well chips should be prepared. Secondly, I’m also assuming (having grown up in Karatina and visited many of such restaurants) the customers are more than likely interested in satisfying their hunger rather than the decor in restaurants, the food presentation and perhaps oily or not oily chips. JKE you have to understand in those parts of the world the “chips sophistication” is not the order of the day. Most of the folks perhaps eating in a restaurant is a luxury too and have not travelled all over the world to compare and contrast or subscribe to food magazine plus who says that they do not like the oily fat chips too:-). For you it is easier to point out that and compare Germany, Mombasa, Nairobi, Japan chips preparation but the restaurant owner may not have been widely travelled to even know that his chips sucks! I’m glad that you pointed this out to him and am glad they were positively responsive. That what it takes. Again this goes back to the “lack of innovation” which you have pointed out over and over again about my people.

    Again , it is easier to say that when usually the folks there they are trying keep their head above water i.e catering for their own basic needs.That does not mean that they are not innovative or lack ideas, believe go talk to most and most have ideas but perhaps lack the infrastructure to channel their ideas and not all of them have the luxury of laptops and little change to peruse through webpages and be innovative. That is not to say that there aren’t lazy Kenyans who idle about and wait for handouts . Same thing you are doing blogging about it ,same thing as that Njoroge next door who sees an opportunity or has an innovative idea talks about it and fails to make the idea take off . “Kuga ni gwika”

    Sorry my friend but this “lack of innovative Kenyans” is alos a double edged sword.

  6. Jke: Another thing, you also need to learn the mentality/culture of Embu people and if they like their chips oily, then it is you to deal with it or make your own at home rather than trying to change people if at all they are not interested in that change i.e cook JKE way.

  7. I gotta go with K1 on this one. I don’t think shopkeepers in Embu, Meru, Kibowswa, or Nairobi give two-f*cks whether people like their food or not — as long as the customers pay, so be it. NBO spots may use more “sophisticated” marketing techniques to pull in the bodies, but the motivating philosophy is exactly the same as in Embu.

    Now, what if you could convince proprietors that they could get more customers in their shops, and they don’t have to spend any more money to get a few extra customers (and with some extra monies, a lot more customers)? They’re gonna like the idea very much.

    Thanks to marketing, Kenyan younguns’ (and not-so-younguns’) are going to frequent a place that they believe connects them with the Western lifestyle. You and I and my friend’s nyanya may hate that this is the case, but reality is reality. And shopkeepers deal in reality, painfully, every day.

    K1 is wrong in that he’s trying to get them to make this food the way he likes it. He’s got to get their buy-in on the commercial aspect of doing it, be it chips or good coffee or whatever.

    Ha! You’ll have more success cracking your head open banging it against a wall than trying to convince a Kenyan hoteli owner to change his menu based on quality and taste. Play up the money/profit angle, you’ll get the food you want.

  8. “I don’t think shopkeepers in Embu, Meru, Kibowswa, or Nairobi give two-f*cks whether people like their food or not — as long as the customers pay, so be it.”
    Enyce: I do not agree with this premise that they do not care about about their customer’s need . Am sure they do and that’s what is sustaining the restaurant in question; meaning the customers perhaps like the fat ,boiled and then fried chips otherwise if they didn’t , would they bother going there day in day out? or is it lack of alternatve thereof? If the latter, JKE there is a chance for you to show Kenyans how it is done:-)

  9. K1 is about as innovative as one gets… check out his other posts!

    Regarding the chips in Embu… Irene, you took a nasty turn with “my people”… IMHO, K1 doesn’t care who you are ethnically even though he calls himself K1… Furthermore, he lives in Embu (town) which probably is more cosmopolitan than the shaggz.

    Food likes & dislikes are a personal choice. Different strokes for different folks…

    K1 – Perhaps you can pick one restaurant & show them how to make chip your way… Even if that is not how they normally do it, at least you can get your chips done the ‘right’ way…

    Pop & Mom “fish & chips” locations need to get their act together otherwise they will be overtaken by franchises as has happened in the UK (Wimpy’s, Burger King & mcDonalds) & USA (Wendy’s, Hardee’s, Sonic, Burger King & McDonalds).

    It will happen, just a matter of time. Customer satisfaction should be #1 on the Pop & Mom shops agenda.

  10. I just recently found this blog, and have ben enjoying it. I just wanted to share that my wife is from Nyahururu (I’m from the US), and she cooks chips just like that. I always try to get here to cook them longer, but that is exactly how she likes them. Kenchic used to be our roko when we were in NBO. They cook (or undercook them depending on your preference) just like in your picture.

    I guess people just like what they are used to.