Potato bhajia

Potato bhajia – Bhajia za viazi

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.


Potato Ingredients

  • 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


  1. Peel and slice the potatoes very thin. Then wash and pat dry.
  2. In a different bowl, mix all dry potato ingredients. Mix well.
  3. 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.
  4. Put all potatoes in chickpea batter, cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour.
  5. Heat oil for frying in medium heat, could be deep-frying or fry in shallow oil.
  6. 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.
  7. Serve with bhajia tomato dip, chutney or kachumbari.

Tomato dip instructions

  1. Cut tomatoes in half, then remove seeds
  2. Grate the tomatoes in a grater.
  3. In a small bowl. Mix grated tomatoes with all other ingredients.
  4. 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
  1. 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.
  2. Mash the potatoes, then add peas, corn salt and butter, mix (do not mush at this point)
  3. Put in a warm serving dish.
  4. 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.
  5. Serve irio and garnish with the stir-fried onions.