A photographic food safari of my favourite food from Mombasa, Kenya

A photographic food safari of my favourite food from Mombasa, Kenya

I was born and brought up in Mombasa, a coastal city in Kenya, up until the age of 16 and on my visits back home in recent years, there are some dishes I just can’t wait to eat and try and make it a point to have. These are a mix of street food dishes, which can be found roadside, as well as dishes that can be found in restaurants.

Some of these dishes have been influenced in terms of taste, flavours, cooking style as well as presentation by Kenya’s historical foreign settlers such as Indians, Arabs, Europeans, just to name a few. For example, the use of spices, coconut,  fresh herbs such as coriander and vegetables, such as green chillis, have shaped some of the dishes today. You will also notice that the simple seasoning of salt, chilli, lemon and sugar is prominent in many dishes mentioned in this post.

The Indian influences on the cuisine, in particular, is due to Indians moving to Kenya about a century ago to work as railway workers on what was known as the “lunatic line” or to set up businesses from scratch. As a result, some popular Indian dishes continue to remain prominent in Kenya today.  If you haven’t watched the film The Ghost and the Darkness, I highly recommend it for an insight into what it was like working on the railway lines.

These are my personal favourites, that I love to eat whenever visiting Mombasa, and in no particular order. This is by no means a conclusive list so if you have any favourites which I haven’t mentioned I would love to know about them! Just add them in the comments section below.

Mogo

Mogo, or Mohogo, as it is sometimes known, is grilled or fried cassava, and a popular snack found at the infamous “Lighthouse,” on Mama Ngina Drive where locals drive through at a leisurely pace or park up to enjoy the sea breeze, chat and catch up and eat delicious street food dishes.

Mogo (pictured below) is usually seasoned with a blend of salt, chilli, sugar and a squeeze of lime. So simple yet so satisfying!

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Also made from the cassava are Mogo crisps, which are sold per the bag at Lighthouse. They are usually very fresh and you can ask for them to be seasoned how you like.

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Makai (corn on the cob)

Also found at “Lighthouse” is grilled sweet corn which is usually garnished with lime and chilli. You can ask for it mild, medium or hot!

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Grilled sweet potato

Another great dish found on Mombasa’s most popular pier front, is grilled sweet potato which you can have with a sprinkling of chilli and salt (sensing a theme here?) and it is utterly divine. I love the soft texture of the sweet potato and the tangy hit of the seasoning.

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Madafu

Available all over the island, there is surely no better way to quench your thirst and stay hydrated? The flesh is so delicious too!

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Kachoris

Another snack that originated from India but the Kenyan version is next level amazing. Balls filled with deliciousness and usually enjoyed on Sundays over an indulgent breakfast, I think every Mombasa resident can resonate with the famous Bhagwanji kachoris! The good news is that they have opened branches in Nairobi too!

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Bhajias with fresh coconut chutney

Bhajias are popular East African snacks whose origins lie in India. There are so many variants of Bhajias or Bajias, as they are sometimes referred to. They can be found roadside and best eaten hot with a cooling fresh coconut chutney.

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Mahamri and bharazi

Mahamris are a special type of triangle shaped doughnut flavoured with coconut and cardamom. They are usually served with gunga peas cooked in coconut milk. They are DELICIOUS and the perfect breakfast meal.

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Seafood

Being a coastal city, Mombasa has the best and freshest sea food and I absolutely love lobster and prawns especially.  Fish is always a good idea too! Some of my favourite places are Monsoons, Sea Haven, La Marina and Monsoon. They all offer Al fresco dining with a sea view and the food is incredible.

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Mabuyu

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Usually sold in bags, these are baobab seeds flavoured with sugar and other ingredients and usually coloured red with food colouring, although now you can get many more variants.

 

Achari

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This is dried mango which is then sweetened or salted and coloured using food colouring. These are rather addictive and they have a lovely chewy texture and a tangy taste.

Halwa

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The best Halwa is usually found in Malindi, but you can get it available within Mombasa too. Halwa is a sweetmeat confection with a jelly like consistence. It is usually made from starch, cardamom, ghee and lots of sugar. It is then garnished with cashew nuts or almonds. They are usually sold in a log shape and wrapped with paper.

Nyama choma

Availsble widely from roadside shacks to restaurants, Nyama choma, which is roast or barbecued meat, is one of Kenya’s specialities. It is also Kenya’s unofficial national dish.

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You can find it on most street sides. Alternatively, Mubins, which has a venue both in town and in Nyali in Mombasa, do really good barbecued meat.

Poussin chips

Nothing makes me happier than a plate of Poussin chips. Poussin sauce has also been my most popular recipe on my blog. The sauce is made from margarine/butter and drizzled all over chips or alternatively used as a marinade for meat or fish. Most Barbecue restaurants in Mombasa such as Hashmi or Sham E Bahaar have this available.

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Packed potatoes

Packed potatoes are my weakness – they are thick slices of potatoes sandwiched together with a delectable mix of chilli, salt and lemon and then deep fried with a seasoned gram flour batter. Heaven served with a cooling chutney!  I recently had this at the Aga Khan club in Mombasa, as well as roadside.

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Zanzibar Mix, also known as Mombasa Mix to coastal locals

Mix, is well loved in our family, and my favourite to date has been at the Aga Khan club. Thanks to the lovely Nasim for treating me to a wonderful bowl of mix as well as a catch up during my last trip to the coast.

So what is mix? It is exactly what the name suggests and is a mix of potatoes, chickpeas, spices, coconut sauce, dashes of chutney, raw mango, sev, chevro and bhajias. It is divine! It originated in Zanzibar but East Africa has adapted it and it has become somewhat of a speciality in Mombasa too. This dish is the perfect example of multiple cultural influences on the cuisine of Kenya.

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Samosas

Finally who doesn’t love samosas? Triangular parcels of delight! These are an example of an Indian snack adopted by Kenya and it even has an alternative name which is Sambusa! These can be filled with vegetables or meat and are best eaten hot!

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Do you have any favourites in Mombasa? Would love to know in the comments section below.

Binny xx

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28 Comments

  1. April 21, 2017 / 5:53 am

    This post has taken me back to my Africa days. I miss eating all the things you mentioned. I definitely need to make a trip back to visit my family there.

    • April 21, 2017 / 5:58 am

      And one to Kenya with me 😀

  2. April 21, 2017 / 6:09 am

    YUMMY! Bhagwanji kachori and Madafu

    • April 21, 2017 / 6:10 am

      YASS!!!! I didn’t have madafu this time was so gutted!!!!

      • April 21, 2017 / 6:22 am

        Ohh nooo. Next time, we can go for Coconut Mojitos (with madafu) 🙂

        • April 21, 2017 / 6:28 am

          Defo!! I am adding madafu and kachori in now xxxx

  3. April 21, 2017 / 8:10 am

    The madafu and viazi karai are the best. I am in Nairobi and get my achari fix from a stall near City Market. I would like to try “The Mix’ looks really yummy.

  4. Rebecca Nicholass
    April 21, 2017 / 9:42 am

    I love all things coconut, so I’d love to try the bhajias with the coconut chutney and the mahamris too! They sound amazing.

  5. April 21, 2017 / 10:16 am

    I’m a Mombasa newbie and I can’t wait to try all of these.

    PS where do I find the ones not at the lighthouse?

    • April 21, 2017 / 10:22 am

      Yay hope you enjoy trying them! Aga khan club for mix, packed potatoes, etc, most roadside stalls for bhajias and mubins in nyali for meat is excellent. Near mtwapa for the seafood restaurants. Email me anytime if u want any recommendations 🙂 xx

  6. Maureen
    April 21, 2017 / 10:52 am

    You just made my mouth water. I lived in Mombasa and I loved going to Mama Ngina Drive on Sunday afternoons and eating the street food.

    • April 21, 2017 / 10:53 am

      Wasn’t it such a nice Sunday afternoon thing to do?xx

  7. Planes & Champagne
    April 24, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    Ok I’m hungry now and I only had my lunch 30 minutes ago! Mogo looks exactly like a Peruvian dish we have called Yuca and you can make crisps from them too…I wonder if they’re from the same plant… xx

  8. azra esmail
    April 27, 2017 / 4:59 am

    I LOVE MOMBASA THE THE STREET FOOD IS AMAZING, YOU FORGOT THE VITUMBUA, MKATE SINIA, KAIMATI, VITHU AND WET PEPETA

  9. Nazir
    May 12, 2017 / 5:15 pm

    YUMMY!!! And are you also the photographer? AMAZING job. That’s what I call a culinary and a visual treat. Thanks

    • binnyjs
      October 10, 2017 / 8:27 am

      yes thank you so much!

  10. Shida
    September 18, 2017 / 6:24 pm

    i like the way you go into the history of the dishes, would like to know more stuff on the history/current story/future

  11. Ricky
    October 3, 2017 / 10:56 am

    Wow brings back fond memories of our holidays in Mombasa as kids and more recently on our vacation to this wonderful place on earth !

  12. Sadrudeen
    October 3, 2017 / 10:18 pm

    I too was born in MSA and have very vivid memories of the foods u have photos of in the awesome presentation. Sometimes I just daydream of enjoying a delicious street food or a restaurant one. I have tried to raplecate some of these at home but of course it’s never the same for obvious reasons. So one day, I will just have to visit there. Thank you for this teaser

  13. Mickey
    October 3, 2017 / 10:44 pm

    Binny, Great Mombasa culinary feasts !!

    I would recommend the egg & kima Chapatis available nights on the streets & not forgetting the Nyundu muskhakis & kebabs too, available at most of the barbecue joints.
    A lovely Swahili food restaurant between Nyali Cinemax & Bhageanji catering mahamris, bharazi & lovely coastal breakfasts with boiled arrow roots (dhooma), is a very nice small cozy place, next to Al Kadiri.
    You also missed the specialty GOLAS & bhajias, kebabs & Dal bhajias of the very popular Al Kadiri.
    A lovely place for very tasty & delicious old style curries like Meri Methi Chicken, Jeera Chicken, Chicken Masala, kheema & biryani’s are just too good at the Coast Gymkhana – Note these are forgotten type of curries which previously served in Nairobi by places like Lahoria’s, Brilliant, New Mehfil, Khan’s, Maharajah & Mohinders Corner – I guess the only one close to these old style curries now is Shamura’s or if you do the Self Cooking at the Koroga Joints.
    Recently have found to like the New Roberto’s on the Links Rd, though have never enjoyed the one at Nyali Cinemax, but the new one is quite pricy too.
    Mombasa also has some lovely places doing various types of biryanis.
    Am always looking forward to going to laid back Mombasa & enjoy the lovely food.

  14. Darrell Sequeira
    October 4, 2017 / 10:20 am

    Binny, you really made me dribble with all those snack memories. I am a Mtoto ya Mombasa. I cannot wait to be in my dear home town again. Can anyone suggest a clean, safe and reasonably priced place to live in for about 4-8 weeks? One idea is a self service small flat for two or four persons. One delicacy that you did not mention is Aden Chapaties. When I lived in Mombasa, the Lighthouse was a regular cycle ride. I have eaten all that you mentioned and kweli they are the stuff that good snacks are made off. Would be good to have the recipes for Aden Chapaties and Mahamres. Keep us posted.

  15. Francis Noronha
    October 4, 2017 / 3:42 pm

    “Chapati Mayayi” and Chicken Tikha deserve inclusion. We also enjoyed Mamadi’s kebabs in the Old Port area but that was a long time ago.
    Francis

  16. Asgar Daya.
    October 4, 2017 / 6:40 pm

    Asgar Daya..

    U have everything mouth watering. In Singapore u get all above n Murtaba. It’s thin pastry with mince meat n an egg whisked drizzled over the mince meat then the pastry folded in to form a pie. This is then shallow fried. This is eaten with a gravy made with dal lentil n meat. Very tasty.

  17. Paresh
    October 4, 2017 / 10:30 pm

    I am a chef living in sanfrancisco I try to make most of these didhies here but the taste is nothing like eating in Mombasa

  18. Jean (nee Naylor) Wandera
    October 8, 2017 / 5:54 pm

    I am from mombasa, living in Luton UK. I miss all these treats, tried making them for the family but it does not taste like the ones from home. Try my best to visIt home every 2/3 years and these are the foods I eat on my 6wks holiday every time. got bags of achari and mbuyus in my freezer from my last trip in Dec.

  19. Rosalie Cross
    October 9, 2017 / 7:49 pm

    This must remind so many people of their years in Mombasa. Did you school there? Very enjoyable reading.

  20. Muslim Mohamedali
    October 9, 2017 / 9:38 pm

    Yum my and really mouthwatering, this reminds us of our good old days in Mombasa. All the items listed here are some that have been been missing dearly. But in other sense we have starting making all the above items at home and my wife can do all but the only thing missing is the cool breeze from the Indian Ocean (light house). We leave in Canada now for the last 24 years and I still read the coast week.

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