I did not have the best of experience the first time I ate avocado. I did not like it at all. Now I know why; it was a different kind of avocado that I still do not like up to this day. They are very large – green and watery inside, not as creamy.
I think I was not 10 years old yet in Mwanza, Tanzania. A friend of my aunt came to visit us from Moshi. She came with parachichi (avocados). I knew her for a few years, but that was the first time she came from Moshi with (parachichi) avocados. The curious me I could not wait to try. I did not like the taste.
A few years later in Dar-Es-salaam, I saw a different fruit, (at least that is what I thought). I was then told that it was a parachichi (avocado). How could it be? I asked myself, because it looked very different from the parachichi I tried in Mwanza. Since it looked different, I thought it could taste different, so I tried. This was creamy and yellow inside. I thought that particular parachichi was close to butter, exactly what I like. Since then, I loved avocados, but not the large, green, and watery ones; I love the small, dark, buttery and yellow inside.
Then we moved to Nairobi Kenya! The land of avocados, at least that is what I thought because avocados were sold in every grocery store and even the neighborhood kiosk. I made sure I had enough for the first few years, until I could pass them in the store without being excited.
Here is one of the recipes of avocado salad that I love so much. In East Africa, We serve Avocado both as fruit and vegetable.
- 4 medium avocados (cut in big chunks)
- 1 1/2 cup or 1 small, thinly sliced cucumber
- 1/2 cup or 1 small, thinly sliced tomato (cut in half, remove seeds, then cut into thin slices)
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
- 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro/parsley
- 1 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. fresh ginger juice
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
- Habanero / hot chilis (optional)
- In a big bowl, mix all ingredients except avocado. Cover and set aside to chill for 30 minutes or more.
- Add avocados only when you are about to serve so that they will not turn brown. Serve immediately.
Common snack sold along the streets of East African coast, mostly in Kenya.Nowadays this is popular all over East Africa. SERVE 4
It was in mid 80s, my father and step mom were out of the country. I was alone with the maid as usual in Nairobi, Kenya. Basically our maid was my main caretaker most of the time, since my parents where always out of the country.
I came home from boarding school and I wanted bhajia so bad. Since our maid was from some village in Machakos, did not know what bhajia was. We walked to the snack store, about a mile away from home. Sadly our driver took off with the car for personal errands. (I am sure many Africans can relate to that).
We finally made it to the store, but they did not have the chickpea bhajia. They introduced me to potato bhajia. I told the maid I did not know what that was, I wanted chickpea bhajia that I was used to eat in Tanzania when I used to visit my birth mom. She suggested we took a bus to River Road. There we went. We tried different Indian restaurants and snack shops; all they had was potato bhajia. That is when I realized during those days, Kenyans in Nairobi did not know about chickpea bhajia. I decided to buy potato bhajia to try them. Woo! To my surprise, they were very tasty. I asked the man how to cook them. I wrote down. But, at that time I was not allowed to cook at home. Luckily when my step mom came back from Tanzania, she knew how to make potato bhajia. And that is how I was introduced to potato bhajia.
- 1 lb potatoes (4 medium size potatoes)
- 1 cup chickpea flour (very fine)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp rice flour
- 1 tsp ginger paste (1 tsp powder)
- 1 tsp garlic paste (1 tsp powder)
- 1 tbsp cilantro finely chopped
- 1 cup water
- Oil for deep-frying
Tomato dip ingredients
- 10 -12 oz tomatoes (or just two large tomatoes)
- 1 tsp cilantro paste (use mortar and pestle to crush fresh cilantro to a paste)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp finely chopped habanera / hot peppers (or crush them together with cilantro in mortar)
- 1/2 garlic paste
- 1/1 tsp fresh lime-juice
- Peel and slice the potatoes very thin. Then wash and pat dry.
- In a different bowl, mix all dry potato ingredients. Mix well.
- Add the rest of potato ingredients except oil. Mix well until very smooth. Make sure the texture is very light, if not, add 1 tsp water at a time.
- Put all potatoes in chickpea batter, cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour.
- Heat oil for frying in medium heat, could be deep-frying or fry in shallow oil.
- Add potatoes one by one from the batter and cook until golden brown or until potatoes are cooked. Taste one before you take them all out. Make sure they are not sticking together when you are putting in the frying pan.
- Serve with bhajia tomato dip, chutney or kachumbari.
Tomato dip instructions
- Cut tomatoes in half, then remove seeds
- Grate the tomatoes in a grater.
- In a small bowl. Mix grated tomatoes with all other ingredients.
- Serve at room temperature
Some Kenyans believe there is no difference between irio and mukimo, but some says, there is a difference.
Our first maid was from a Kamba tribe. I remember when she said she was cooking mukimo, she would make same as irio with mashed green leaf vegetables.
When she cooked irio, it was just mashed potatoes, fresh white corn (not dried), and green peas. At the end of the day, I thought mukimo was just another variety of irio. I would love to hear from the Kenyans about this.
Our Kikuyu maid said Mukimo is from Mt Kenya. When I researched, I realized that there are several tribes around Mt. Kenya: Kikuyu, Ameru, Masai and Embu. Now I am asking myself, is Mukimo traditional food for all those tribes or for just the Kikuyus? I guess I forgot to ask that question when I was in Kenya in 2015.
Another thing that I learned while living in Kenya was that unlike irio, mukimo, does not have to use peas, any regular beans are used often. I remember our maid liked to use pumpkin leaves for mukimo and red beans. The Kikuyu use Kahurura (fig leaves). Kahurura is in the same family of pumpkin leaves.
Irio has become a Kenyan identity more than just for the Kikuyus.
You can use frozen peas and corn. Use ½ lb potatoes, ¼ cup green peas, and ¼ cup corn per person. Garnishing is my own addition. The only ingredients that make authentic irio are potatoes, peas and corn. Serve 4.
- 2 lb potatoes
- 1-cup fresh peas
- 1-cup fresh corn
- 1 tsp salt
- 2-ounce onion (or very large onion for four people)
- 1 sweet pepper (small is better, but size does not matter much
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp or more coconut oil
- Peel, wash and boil the potatoes. In two other pans, boil peas and corn separately. When cooked discharge the water from the vegetables including potatoes.
- Mash the potatoes, then add peas, corn salt and butter, mix (do not mush at this point)
- Put in a warm serving dish.
- For garnishing, heat coconut oil on medium-high heat, sauté onions and red pepper. Cook until dark (almost burnt for better flavor). Then add salt. Put in a serving dish.
- Serve irio and garnish with the stir-fried onions.
Collard greens (known as sukuma-wiki in East Africa), is one of the most consumed vegetables in Kenya. Recently, other countries in East Africa are catching up. It was one of our favorite greens when we lived in Kenya. I eat different varieties of home prepared collards by our maid and my step mom. And until today, I love these greens. The First time I saw collards in USA, I knew they were sukuma wiki, even though they were not as green as the ones in Kenya. I have been to a few cities in USA, and I have noticed that collards are much cheaper in the South compare to other regions.
Simple and quick
1 lb collard greens (about 14 large leaves)
1 tbsp ginger juice (crush about 2-3 oz of fresh ginger root then squeeze the juice)
1 tbsp of left ginger pulp from above crushed ginger
½ – ¾ cup chopped onions
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp beef bouillon (one small cube)
2 tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp clove powder
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp mustard powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp ghee (or more as you need)
- Heat ghee in a pan, then sauté onions until golden brown
- Add dry spices together with ginger pulp, sauté for a few seconds
- Pour in coconut milk, mix well until it stats to boil
- Add ginger juice, mix then add collards greens and salt. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until cooked
Serve with ugali, chapatti, and rice
IN SWAHILI: Bhajia za Dengu
Makes about 30 bhajias
2 cups very fine chickpea flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
¾ – 1 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup finely chopped onions
1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh hot peppers
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
- In a mixing bowl, mix gram flour, baking powder, and salt. Then add ¾ cup coconut milk; mix well. If it is too heavy, add the remaining ¼ cup of coconut milk. NOTE: if you want to have nice almost round shape, make sure your batter is heavy. In that case ¾ cup coconut milk would be enough.
- Add onions, cilantro, and hot peppers. Mix very well.
- Heat the oil for deep-frying; drop a teaspoon full of batter into the hot oil (or use a small scoop spoon). Fry until golden brown. Continue until the batter is finished. Drain the bhajia on a paper towel to soak up excess oil.
- Serve with coconut chutney.