The Wealth and Values of East African Cuisine

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The journey of East African cuisine dates back to 1496 when the Portuguese arrived at the East Coast of Kenya. Our food culture is one of the most ancient and refined in the continent. Indeed, one distinct and well-developed aspect of culture is our cuisine.

The fresh water Lake Victoria and the salty Indian Ocean provide our families with an amazing array of fish. A cross-cultural tradition of nomadic, pastoralist and agriculturalist residents nurture grain and domestic livestock. They were the ones who allowed our societies to enjoy a strong tradition of enriched cuisine.

With a vast area of land and over hundred different tribes, each with its own distinctive gastronomic cuisine, East Africa’s cuisine can only be defined as “The cradle of African cuisine.”

           

Team of international chefs who has passion in East African cuisine

Team of international chefs who has passion in East African cuisine

The Values Behind the Meals

Vunja Mifupa And Onja Utamaduni (Taste Our Tradition)

Traditional East African cuisine has been based on traditional communal eating setup. Meals like Nyama Choma roasting meats are accompanied with various other ingredients depending on the regions. It could be roast mzuzu bananas from Tanzania, mokimo Kenyan mashed Irish potatoes mixed with garden peas and pumpkin leaves or matoke mashed bananas from Uganda. The meal is served to a group of families for lunch or dinner.

This, however, has been changed by chefs organizing events promoting East African cuisine and culinary tourism, both locally and abroad. We have events like like Vunja mifupa and Onja Utamaduni Wetu, among others. Today, the main purpose of meals is slightly different. It would be more to revitalize local ingredients and promote the rich diversity of East African Cuisine cuisine.

For many of us, using of local ingredients is also becoming increasingly important. There is a need to increase self-reliance using locally-grown products, as well as create awareness of nutritious food. This is important for the resilience of communities. It is also important for women and children who are malnourished due to improper eating habits.

 

What East African Cuisine can Tell Us

The use of spices in East African cuisine is mainly treasured around the coastal region of East Africa where the slave trade was predominant. These regions included Zanzibar, Pemba, Tanga, and Mombasa. This was mainly due to the fact that slave owners planted these herb and spices tree as a map directing them to slave trade markets. This is why there is similarity of East African cuisine along the coastal regions, such as wali pilau, rice pilau, and samaku wakupaka.

These are some of the most distinctively East African cuisines. Prepared by uniquely separating coconut milk from the desiccated coconut meat, the meals are simmered in their respective meats and sparingly spiced with spices like gilgilani, karafu, abdalasini, and pilipili manga to give the dishes its unique East African flavor.    

We also have the common items. Ugali soft porridge or polenta, traditional vegetables like African night shades mixed with lady fingers, nyama choma, and samaki wa kupaka are some of the most common food items found throughout East African cuisine.

Inland East African cuisine may be the most diverse of all. With its multi-racial influence, it tells a different story from coastal recipes. Away from common plantations, recipes are handed down from generation to generation. This preserves its diversity and consistency of flavor.

Truly, there are so many things that can be learned from East African cuisine.