International Meals – Kenya

For previous Christmas day meals, we’ve sometimes tried to make what would be traditional for the holiday in that country.  Not so much on this Christmas, but it was nice having the day off to cook.

Kenya is on the east coast of Africa, and has historically had a wide range of visitors, from Zheng He to Vasco de Gama. The colonial era wasn’t any less awful than anywhere else, but modern Kenyan society represents a wide range of intra- and extra- African influences.

When you google “national dish of Kenya,” the main result is ugali, or cooked cornmeal, used as a base to consume other dishes.  So we’ll make that.  Hot water, cornmeal.  Bam.

OK, what else?

We settled on two dishes, a veg and a curry.  The veg was also pretty simple: sukuma wiki, which literally means “stretch the week.”  It would traditionally be made with whatever vegetable was readily available in season to provide a filling means of pushing the food budget.  Collard greens would be very authentic, but those don’t turn up in our local Canadian grocery store all that frequently.  So kale it is!

Note: for a number of years, Leigh and I took part in an absolutely amazing scavenger hunt called “GISH”.  It is a running joke in GISH that kale is always redacted. Here is the only GISH item that I personally ever managed to get included in the annual coffee table book.  It has nothing to do with this meal, but I’m going to use this excuse to include it anyway.

Pirate cake

So anyway, to make Sukuma Wiki, you simply Sautee some onions, wilt in some [redacted], and then finish with heavy cream.

Bam. Done.  What else?

For our main dish, we are making a chicken curry called kuku paka. This is an abbreviation of “kuku wu kupaka”, which literally just means “chicken in sauce.” It’s a coconut milk based curry featuring not terribly exotic ingredients.

First, you marinate the chicken using chili powder, garlic, lemon and salt.

Chicken marinade ingredients.

Mmm.. gros salt.

Next, you make a curry base consisting of onion, tomato, chilies, and cilantro.

Curry base ingredients

Knife for… scale?  To show we mean business?  Not sure. Moving on…

The base gets pureed and then cooked with some spices for a bit to get rid of the raw onion taste.  Once it’s ready, you add coconut milk to make it creamy.  Meanwhile, you broil the marinated chicken until it’s done and a bit charred in spots.

Broiled chicken.
Chicken and pan juices go in the pot with the sauce and everything gets simmered for a bit, and finally the whole thing is finished with a bit more heavy cream.  And with that, we’re ready to bring everything to the table!

My goodness, isn’t that pretty?  We’ve made some fairly beige meals on this journey, (looking at you, Iceland), but this was not one of those.  And in addition to being fun to look at, it was TASTY.  The richness of the coconut milk combined with the spices in the curry made for a hearty, satisfying meal.  The [redacted] was crunchy and rich with cream, and the ugali was… fine.  It was fine.  It soaked up the sauce nicely.

Next up, we return to Oceana for a country that isn’t pronounced the way you think it is.

Kuku Paku
Sukuma Wiki

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