Author /Phil Kuria
There’re tiny little treasures that life offers. Treasures that hold jewels. We pass them by the day, slide past them by the night as we retire to our homes, but we just don’t see them. And the treasures aren’t huge golden boxes, they are special shacks. Shacks built to run the territories of street food and street cravings. Some aren’t more of shacks, but miniature food bazaars.- Neat and smartly built. And some, have the real structure of pure shacks. These ones, is where I’d send you to collect jewels. Food jewels. Because the vendors may seem unkempt, but skilled unkempt. They are the gangsters of street food. And that is why, items like smokies, hardboiled eggs, wild fries( a.k.a chips mwitu), gangster bhajias and soup for the soul, have their owners. In simple terms you only know of one joint where you’d collect a cup of soup for the soul. Not because they send green chillies in that soup, or because they sell it in metallic cups, but because, behind that cup of soup for the soul, a guy named James or Bernard (Banoo), got busy enhancing it’s flavours. He cooks it well, and you have never heard of any complaint of food poisoning from his joint.
You choosily have spots for specific items. For a samoo, you’d get it from KK’s café. For fries, you target Peter in the evenings, and for mutura,…. mmgh! mmgh!.... Mutura is best on Deno’s grill. Deno has kind of a supernatural power that binds him, mutura and flavours together. He’s introverted but gets interactive with his knife on grill. Smokie kachumbari/salsa is the one that kills me..... On quiet evenings when coins jingle in my pockets, barely 50 meters away from the bus terminal, I float on Kikuyu’s loamy soil and meet my best; smokie with salsa. I take 3 on the least side and infinity on a happy day. Street food are meant to call us. And the chemistry of food that works more or less like libido, is always initiated by the vendors themselves. A smokie is sent out of the pack, pale, but healthy pale because its raw and it’s straight thrown to a determined pot of steaming water. The water there, isn’t qualified to be called H20. It has boiled to levels it can’t. Molecules inside divorced at the hundredth degrees. The water itself bubbles to the rhythms of hotness. Hot and bubble rhythms. Like a theme of a Jamaican riddim. Smokies thrown in such adversity always comes out with a lust to be eaten. Lust wiser than hitman.
But lust wiser than hitman has another counter. A competition it can’t withhold. Kenya’s king of street foods. The ultimate Mutura. This African sausage, banks our joy. It’s the reason why we love to keep loose change after battling a kange in a matatu and offering him a pinching fifty or seventy shillings. We give while thinking of it. Mere thirty shillings coins goes accounting for a starter. A mutura starter. By the way, it’s the only street food that bags a complete three course meal. And all the three, of the same caliber. Mutura starter, mutura main course and mutura desert. If the abode of this African sausage on a chopping board you’re feeding from,lacks the presence of salt crystals, my friend you aren’t having mutura.
.......... It’s a trivial when you serve it with pellets of hot chillies. A rule of thumb when feeding on this sausage is, don’t let the butcher complete chopping the pieces. It’s a eat, as it’s chopped thingi’. Otherwise if you wait for the chopping to complete, you’ll end up having crystals of salt for treat. I didn’t mention that the only knife that cuts mutura, is, and should be, a thin blade of steel with fairly plump handle. Looking at it, it defines years of experience in the game. No gloves allowed.
Roasted corn on the cob has heavenly characters. A good one, can make you chew the cob itself. Whoever thought of complimenting it’s taste with lemon and ground red chilli flakes, must have a culinary bachelors from Italy. A true Kenyan fan waits for his corn to get roasted. You sample first with the present corns flagging there. At the grill. You then either say “ah ah” and abandon the samples you’ve plucked, or you say “iko sawa” meaning ‘its okay’ and choose to take any that the vendor chooses for you. Foreigners here get lost. They don’t know what corn is best. They don’t know the corns from Kijabe that are sweet as jawbreakers. For true fans, they know. A true fan can choose a good corn to be roasted for him or her….
A true fan can’t choose a good hard boiled egg when he he/she buys it from the streets. Do eggs have good ones that are sweet to eat with salsa? ..Am just curious…And, what’s your favourite street food?