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Chakula Ni Uhai — Food Is Life

The Maasai proverb ‘Happiness is as good as food’ perfectly sums up what the chefs at Angama wholeheartedly believe in. We are proudly Kenyan in our kitchen and the food lovingly prepared for our guests draws its inspiration form a magnificent tapestry of cultures
Above: The Shamba is one of the many places we love to feed our guests

How did this culinary collision that defines Kenyan food come to be?
The recorded history of Kenya dates back over 1 000 years and its cuisine reflects its multicultural past. Sometime during the first millennium, Arab traders sailed their way south in dhows during the monsoon, kicking off a brisk trade with coastal inhabitants in ivory, gold, slaves and timber. Arab-Swahili states sprung up from Mozambique Island in the south to lovely Lamu in the north, and these important centres traded goods between the Kenyan interior and Arabia, Persia and China. Vasco da Gama sailed into Mombasa in 1498 and 200 years of Portuguese rule followed. The Omanis sent the Portuguese packing in 1730 and settled in until British rule replaced them in 1895.
The trade of slaves and ivory was, thankfully, replaced by the trade of spices. Kenya’s beautiful coastal areas are planted with cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, cumin and coriander. Chillies, vanilla, all manner of spices, coconuts, tropical fruits and fresh fish in abundance still form the building blocks of Swahili cuisine today. A significant influence on Kenyan cooking was brought by thousands of indentured labourers recruited from India between 1896 and 1901 to construct the Uganda Railway.
Into this Arab-Portuguese-British-Indian potpourri of cuisines add the beloved dishes of all Kenyans — nyama choma, ugali, irio, githeri, mandazi and chai — and bingo… happy Angama guests.

Flame-grilled Rib Eye with Chimichuri
BBQ pork belly with roasted apples, thyme and garlic

Let’s kick off with a Nyama Choma. You may know it as a barbeque, I know it as a braai, but for Kenyans, it’s the beginning and end of all celebratory food. Heaps of grilled meat — goat, lamb, beef and chicken — are eaten by hand using ugali (a local polenta) as a mopping utensil scraping up every morsel of kachumbari (Kenyan salsa), sukuma wiki (collard greens) and githeri or irio, both delicious local vegetable dishes. At our Angama Forest BBQ we grill ribeye steaks, jumbo prawns or kingfish fresh from the coast, sticky pork ribs and pili pili kuku kebabs. Pili pili is the addictive Kenyan version of Tabasco. And of course, kuku is chicken. But you knew that already.

The Ugandan Rolex — a firm picnic favourite
Chapatti, hummus, eggs... you can't go wrong

The beloved Kenyan chapatti pops up on every Angama menu: Kenyan Quesadillas; Rolex for picnics; a base for the Middle Eastern Breakfast; Indian Crisp Flatbread Parcels stuffed with vegetable curry; and deep-fried for Kenyan Nachos served with Guacamole. Amazing what can be done with a simple unleavened flatbread.  

More-ish Maasai honey biscuits
The main ingredient of a Dawa cocktail is smokey Maasai honey

Which other Kenyan-inspired dishes delight our guests? Maasai Honey Biscuits probably tops the list with close contenders being chai, Swahili Rice Pudding, Kenyan Dawas (mojitos taken to another level), crispy Ugali Sticks for a little sundowner biting (my absolutely favourite Kenyan word for a snack — isn’t it perfect?), and chilli-spiked Chocolate Pots.

Green shakshuka with olive oil crackers
Pineapple chili ice cream served with charred pineapple
The eye-catching chilled beetroot soup

Using garden-to-fork ingredients harvested daily from our Shamba — Swahili for farm or garden — the cooks prepare Green Shakshuka; Chilled Beetroot Soup; Courgette Flower Fritters; Tropical Fruit Carpaccio with Mint Lime Sugar; and Pineapple Chilli Ice Cream.

Kina with her world-famous salted caramel brownie
Don't miss the Mahamri & coconut ice cream sandwiches

Pastry chef Kina can reinvent the ubiquitous mandazi — the adored Kenyan doughnut — into Turkish Doughnuts spiced with cardamon; Muhamri stuffed with Coconut Ice Cream; Beignets with star anise sugar; cream-filled Choux Puffs; Koeksisters doused in cinnamon syrup; and Date & Almond Stuffed Mandazi dipped in chocolate. Surely that must be a world record?

We simply cannot make enough of these feta and coriander-filled samosas

And wrapping up this Kenyan feast of feasts, let us honour those early settlers from India who brought with them what is surely one of the great cuisines of the world. Our guests discover flavours like never before: Pilau Rice spiced with cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves; feta and coriander-filled samosas; Goan Fish Curry (using tilapia from Lake Victoria — we cannot serve this often enough); Aloo Masala topped with a fried egg for brekko; Paneer & Sweet Potato Curry; and to finish, the queen of ice creams, Kulfi, studded with saffron, pistachios and almonds. 

The team who delight our guests' bellies day after day

As our chefs say:
‘Kula Hakuishi’ 
Eating Never Ends.

Notes from the Editor:

For a quirky anthology of recipes, reminiscences, anecdotes and stories from our kitchen set high up on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, go to Angama Mara's Safari Shop and pick up a copy of Out of an African Kitchen

Filed under: Inside Angama

Tagged with:

Angama Food , Angama Team , Food , Indian Food

About: Nicky Fitzgerald

After more than 30 years in hospitality, starting with a small hotel at the foot of Africa and followed by a further couple of Cape hotels, most notably The Bay, and sixty plus safari lodges across Africa and India, Nicky has served more meals, puffed more cushions, filled more beds, trained more staff and opened more properties than she cares to remember. Nicky retired as Angama's CEO in July of 2022 and remains an advisor and delightfully opinionated member of the Board.

Browse all articles by Nicky Fitzgerald Meet the angama team

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Join the Conversation (3 comments)

Comments (3):

Ngetich kipkorir

7 May 2022

Nice food content...i hope to sample someday

    Charlotte Ross Stewart

    8 May 2022

    We would love to have you, any time!

Bunny FArnell-watson

6 May 2022

This has made me very hungry and keen to return to angama to all the delicious food! The varied Kenyan cuisine is reflected in the history. Fascinating. Thank you, Nicky!

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