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“A Meal Always Keeps The Doctor Pending”

February 28, 2010

Kenya and much of East Africa are almost synonymous with ‘Nyama Choma’ – the charcoal-roasted succulent meats, cooked (nowadays with added spices and lemon) for ages so that the juices infuse the meat… ‘Nyama Choma’ in Swahili means roasted red meats cooked slowly over charcoal. It originated over 1000 years ago with the Maasai tribe. The most popular ‘choma’ meat is the grilled flesh or spareribs of cows and goats. Until recently modern Nyama Choma also meant, for a price, wildlife meats – ostrich, giraffe, crocodile and zebra. But apparently that has been stopped – certainly all we saw in traveling up & down the south-west of the country was goat, beef and chicken choma.

Eating in Africa is always part performance art.

At work in the cage

With Nyama Choma, you start by crowding around a window/counter and peering at the carcasses hanging on big hooks within a wire (or if a really fancy place, glass) cage. Flies buzz, a lusty whiff of meaty/bloodiness fills your nostrils, and the carnivore in you says: eat!

Fighting your way through the jostling clientele, you get to the kitchen window and order by weight (half a kilo per person is plenty), direct from the butcher’s hook or out from the fridge. There’s usually a choice of goat, beef, mutton and chicken. You inspect the slab of sliced ribs, nod, and the order is placed.

Nyama Choma Weigh-In


Footie time!


Now it is beer o’clock; you have about an hour to wait, so off you trot to the most appealing drinkery and an hour of mounting anticipation. And/or take in a football match…

Seated at typically rough-hewn long tables, medieval-style, the steaming meat is brought to your table on a wooden platter and in moments it is chopped to bite-size with a sharp knife.

Nyama Choma chopping

Then it is every eater for her/himself… fingers grab at cubes of meat, bones and fat are deposited on the table, a greasy 15 minutes of eating takes place, usually accompanied by a dish of greens or of ugali, which is a maize porridge-like concoction which serves as the staple starch.

Nyama Choma servings

Nyama Choma servings


The perfect end to this performance is surely another round of beers to make it a perfectly balanced meal.

After all, one must always keep the doctor pending….

Pend That Doctor! (butcher's sign in Nairobi shot from a speeding car)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Andie T permalink
    March 1, 2010 6:13 pm

    Beer + football + charcoal-grilled goat+ starchy lentils + possibility of having to visit the ER (or something spray-painted “ER” or, if I’m really lucky “RE”) afterward…. What could be better?!

    Love A

  2. Rob permalink
    May 4, 2010 5:05 pm

    You had better watch your beer intake or you’ll end up in the hospital… wait, no, that’s the food.

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