Nyama Choma, Kenya’s Finest Cut

The East African nation’s answer to barbecue lies in its national dish.

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Nyama choma, an ancient game meat preparation of Kenya, is slow-cooked over coals and spritzed with a simple salt water solution.

The West may have its roasts and barbecue, but Kenya prides itself on nyama choma—a Swahili specialty that loosely translates to grilled meat.

 

Meet-And-Greet

While it is goat meat (mbuzi choma) that is typically charred to perfection, beef (ng’ombe), chicken (kuku) and seafood are all suitable substitutes. A more contemporary spin on the dish is rabbit, ostrich, and even crocodile meat, roasting slowly on the grill.

 

Route To Its Roots

According to The Mandala Project—a not-for-profit focused on critical issues facing our globe—the origin of the dish is believed to be rooted in Maasai history. The nomads, along with their herds of cow, crossed over from northern Africa to the East in the late first millennium A.D., bringing with them a barbecue culture.

It is also said that during expeditions, the male hunters originally cooked game meat over a fire pit.

 

Ingredient Immersion

Salt, turmeric, garlic and oil—that’s all that goes into this spicy, lip-smacking meat marinade.

 

Table Manners

Whether it’s a family get-together or a grand festival, nyama choma makes a special appearance at the table. The star dish is transferred off of a jua kali or charcoal grill and on to a communal cutting board, where it is served with ugali (a stiff maize flour porridge), kachumbari (fresh vegetable salad) and Tusker—Kenyan lager.

 

Best Bet

While nyama choma is readily available as a street staple everywhere in Kenya, The Carnivore—twice selected by Restaurant magazine in its world’s 50 best restaurants awards—is revered for its mean meat preparation in Nairobi (www.facebook.com/CarnivoreKenya).

 

This story appeared in the print edition of National Geographic Traveller India March-April, 2021.

To read more stories on travel, cities, food, nature, and adventure, head to our web forum here or our new National Geographic Traveller India app here.

 

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

  • Pooja Naik is Senior Sub-Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She likes to take long leisurely walks with both hands in her pocket; channeling her inner Gil Pender at Marine Drive since Paris is a continent away.

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