Work begins early in the morning at 5:30 am and resumes in the evening at about 3 or 4 pm. That’s when there is market for the Maandazi. There’s no fancy or complex equipment required. All you need is some little space to set yourself up , a table, a charcoal jiko or 3 stone fire place, a large table, “karai” (large deep frying pan), a metal strainer and of course basins and trays for serving and kneading. It is a rigorous process that is executed with military precision (or so I think); there’s no space for error lest your profits for the day go down the drain.
The secret to good Maandazis lies in the dough. You have to get the proportion of flour, baking powder, salt and sugar right. They don’t add any milk, butter, margarine or even lemon rind to the mix. The measurements solely depend on the Vendor’s intuition. The dough is then kneaded in a large basin after which it is left to stand for a couple of minutes, say 30 minutes. While this is happening, the jiko is lit (see what I did?) And cooking oil is left to heat on a large karai.
The dough is then divided into small balls, which are then rolled out into a circular disk and cut into 4. These quarters are then deep-fried until they attain a certain shade of golden brown after which they are then removed, ready for serving.
You will always know when Street Maandazi is being cooked. The aroma itself is enough to course you, against better judgement, into digging for those coins and grabbing yourself one, or two, or even three. They have an inviting colour and are always served hot, straight from the cooking oil. Despite the basic ingredients used, for some weird reason, they taste really good. Never mind that they are prepared in places that are not exactly the most hygienic. Everything is done in the open, mostly on busy streets and corners of bus and matatu stages. There’s dust and exhaust fumes all over and the vendors rarely have clean running water on site. Maybe all these contribute to the unique taste. Who knows?