In search of fresh dates this weekend I went to Eastleigh, Nairobi’s prominently-Somali suburb. I had bought dates before in Nairobi supermarkets, but they’re both expensive and processed; I wanted the real deal, straight from the tree, man! The last month or two I’ve been going every other week or so to replenish my supplies. One kilogram costs 180 – 200 shillings (about $2.50) and it’s totally worth it. I also had some camel stew. When in Rome, right?
I have also discovered sweet potatoes. I never liked them when I was in the USA, I dunno why. I have learned that they’re pretty good here when you mix them with githeri (maize and beans). What I like is that I don’t have to add ANYTHING other than a few tea spoons of oil. No spices. No salt. I just boil the maize and beans in water for an hour or so, then peel, boil, and mash the sweet potatoes and then fry it all together with some oil. Natural goodness! Now all I have to do is start eating raw, uncooked vegetables.
Yes, I will cook authentic Kenyan food for you when I return to the USA.
I have enjoyed cooking before so this should come as no surprise, but lately I have been breaking new ground in the kitchen! Yesterday, for the first time ever, I walked into a butchery in Tala market and ordered one quarter of a kilogram of beef. I wanted to cook pilau (a spiced rice dish, usually with beef) but I didn’t know where to start. The mamas in the market were happy to share their recipes, so I collected several opinions and went home to give it a try. Result: success! I had some problems cutting the meat, I never noticed how dull my knife is because all I ever chop is veggies!
I’ve also been cooking some pretty awesome fried rice. Lots of vegetables and spices; it’s pretty tasty. I only learned how to make non-mushy rice in the last few months, so that’s helped my fried rice dish immensely. So you can see savory dishes are covered, but I’ve also made a foray into sweet.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while: my Spanish is gradually being replaced by Swahili. That’s pretty sad when you consider that I studied Spanish for five years in school, not to mention living in San Diego and traveling all over Mexico every year for most of my childhood. Not that I need or use Spanish here in Kenya, but I like to test myself every once in awhile. On a semi-related note, I did eat some beef tacos last week at a funny restaurant in Nairobi called “Taco Club.” My buddy ordered chicken fajitas. The salsa was fresca and the guacamole was delicious, but the rice was more like turmeric rice (Indian…?).
I think I know more Swahili than Spanish now. Maybe I’ll go walk around Mexico for a few weeks when I get back from Kenya in 2009 to refresh my skills. Any takers?
Kwaheri! Or, uh… Adios!