Skyward Express gave me the chance to explore Lamu Island some time beginning of this month. Top on my priority list was learning as much as I could about the authentic and common foods enjoyed in the historic town; and what better way to do this other than sampling the street food.
The best thing about Lamu, like most coastal towns, is the vibrant street food culture. You will find a wide variety lined on the streets early in the morning and in the evening around 4pm. Very little action happens in the middle of the day. The best part about all this? It’s all incredibly cheap! I know for sure I’d be battling with serious weight gain if I resided in this part of Kenya.
A point to note is that most foods here are made from deep fried wheat and are full of sugar. The anti-gluten folks and calorie watchers will have a hard time here. But once in while, you are allowed to indulge, yes?
If you’re planning to visit Lamu, carry with you a healthy appetite and take your taste buds on safari with these treats
Vitumbua or Kitumbua in is a deep fried Swahili snack made from rice flour, coconut, yeast and cardamom. The yeast makes it fluffy whereas the blend of coconut and cardamom gives it a uniquely delicious taste that will have you eating more than you should.
- Jelebia/ Jelebi
Warning: Suitable only for sugar lovers! These pretzel-like sweets are made from deep frying semi-fermented or fresh all-purpose flour batter, then soaking them in sugar syrup. I absolutely loved these; but because of the high sugar content, you will hardly finish more than two in a single sitting. I ate 6
These round, fluffy, cardamom snacks are made from deep fried dough pieces which are then coated in sugar syrup. Best enjoyed with a cup of sugarless or mildy sugared Kahawa Chungu or Spicy Chai ya Rangi (Black Tea). I am self-proclaimed Kaimati addict and stan.
Mitai are taste and are made almost in the same manner as Kaimatis. The only difference is that Mitais tend to be denser and that they are cut in diamond shapes. Perfect as an accompaniment for tea or coffee; or even on their own. It’s your choice really.
- Donasi za Sukari (Sugar Donuts)
This is the local version of glazed donuts and they are so tasty. The donuts are tiny; go slow on the eating because they are amazing!
- Bhajia za Kunde
There are many types of Bhajias depending on the mix of the batter used. These particular ones are made from the Kunde (Cowpea or Black-eyed pea) grain. The result is a delicious but chewy disc that’s perfect with Ukwaju (Tamarind Sauce) or Tomato Sauce.
- Bhajia za Kitunguu/ Plain Bhajia
These Bhajias are made from gram flour batter mixed with onions and coriander. Buy them directly from the hot oil, mix with chilli sauce or Ukwaju and your taste buds will thank you later.
- Viazi vya Karai
These are boiled potatoes coated in a yellow-coloured flour batter and then deep friend. Best enjoyed soaked heavily Ukwaju or chilli. Eat them with your fingers for the culture:)
- Mahamri na Mbaazi ya Nazi
Mahamri is fluffy hollow donut made with coconut milk and cardamom. They are the perfect accompaniment for Mbaazi (Pigeon Peas) cooked in heavy coconut cream. Grab this for breakfast and you will be full until lunch time.
- Mkate wa Sinia
A break from all the fried foods, this is a type of bread made from rice flour, coconut milk and cardamom. It’s fluffy , with mild sugar and has a rich comforting taste in one’s mouth.