Nairobi’s street snacks culture may lack the spice of South East Asian side of the road fried food shacks, the creativity of Uganda’s Rollex industry and the Swahili influences of Coastarian easy snacks but it is tasty and dependable, and you can live off of it for under Ksh.300 a day.
You alight from your morning matatu early enough to catch the first batch of Akinyi’s boiled maize and tea for it is the best, it is the freshest, and the tea is not over-watered. Akinyi is a young lady who runs a business down the street a couple of minutes away from your office at I&M. The strong tea and maize go a long way in satisfying you but by the time it gets to lunch, you’re only thinking about having a smokie pasua (a sausage cut down the middle and stuffed with a spicy tomato kachumbari) and a bottle of soda.
At 1pm you head out for the cleanest town food vendor you know: Njoro, who sells his sausages at the building that’s directly opposite Club Mojos and Tribeka. Njoro not only sells Smokie Pasua and Sausage choma (bbq sausage), he also sells Mayai Pasua (Eggs stuffed with Kachumbari). After hard boiling his eggs, he roasts them on his small coal grill before splitting them down the middle to stuff them full of fresh, spicy goodness. This combo inevitably shocks your taste buds but leaves them crying out for more as soon as the heat subsides. He adds rosemary when grilling the sausages, the smell of which wafts down the street from his bbq station. Technically one egg, sausage and a bottle of cold soda are all you need for lunch but before you head back to the office, you pass outside Jamia Mosque and buy some Kashata (coconut candy) and Mabuyu (baobab sweets) to nibble on as you work your afternoon away.
At 5PM you feel peckish once again but you’re not exactly sure if a cup of tea will do the trick as you’ve been suffering from the heat during the day, so you’d rather have something cold. You and your colleague who is on the same route as you walk down to Fire Station, which is a bit far from your office but has a guy who sells deliciously sweet Madafu (drinking coconut). You get to Koja roundabout but the guy is nowhere to be seen so you decide a fruit salad will hit the spot. Your colleague decides to skip on the fruit and opts for a cob of Mahindi choma (grilled maize) instead, which he promptly proceeds to slather with lemon dipped in that secret chilli powder, the recipe of which maize vendors so jealously guard.
You head back into town as you remember you were meeting for drinks with some friends and proceed to knock back a few as you swap office gossip and such. Presently you realise you are quite famished so you head over to your usual nyama choma (grilled meat) guy Jemo, who is busy fanning the flames on his little coal jiko (grill). You stand by listening to his commentary on the state of the country and eagerly inhale your beef Mishkaki in under ten seconds, while you wait for him to wrap up a chicken wing for you to eat later when you get home.
While heading to catch your matatu home, you pass by the Umoinner stage where many vendors sell deep fried delicious crispy potato and pea samosas. You stop and wonder whether you should give in to your cravings but pull back at the last moment, the warmth of the kuku choma (grilled chicken) wrapped in paper soaking through your jacket pocket.
A huge percentage of Nairobians depend on our city’s street vendors to keep their cravings in check over the course of the long daily hustle. Most people rely on a trusted man/ woman on the street to provide for these daily culinary needs and they will all swear that even if the offerings change little from vendor to vendor, their unique preparation style gives them a signature taste that no one can replicate.
Evolution is not the name of the game because for things to evolve there needs to be demand. And when it comes to Nairobi’s street foods… nobody is demanding for change.
- Boiled Maize Kshs.40
- Smokie Pasua Kshs.25
- Mayai Pasua Kshs.20
- Madafu Kshs.40
- Fruit Salad Kshs.50
- Beef Mishkaki Kshs.100
- Samosa Ksh.30