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Why Nairobians Love Street Foods

Yes, we have food at home; but there is an undying love affair with street foods. They are something else that we just can’t replicate at home, and fancy restaurants ain’t a match either. Maybe that is why we go gaga over them, just maybe.

Street foods are relatively simple to prepare but they taste complex instead, they are so cheap, have big portions, and offer a good value compared if you tried to make the same by yourself. 

1. Street Foods in Nairobi

There is a separate post on all the street foods in Kenya; 15 Popular Kenyan Street Foods Compilation in Nairobi  but in summary;

  •  Most PopularSmokie Pasua, Mayai Pasua These two are readily available almost anywhere you go
Smokie Pasua
Smokie Pasua
  •  Most LovedMutura, Mutura is a traditional blood-filled sausage cooked till solid and firm, it has a cult-like following; mutura stans literally worship it and say it is the greatest gastronomy invention. I don’t like mutura that much and I feel like it is overrated in my opinion. Fight me, I’m the mutura villain(literally)
  •  TrendySmocha. This is a campus cuisine, there is no Kenyan University (at least in  Nairobi) that doesn’t have smocha vendors. It is difficult finding them at a location with no significant university student population. I feel like comrades are gatekeeping here! Smocha is a smoked sausage with kachumbari (salsa), sauced with sauces, wrapped in chapati(flatbread), and rolled.
  •  WeirdVirenjee, like seriously? Chicken feet? Chicken throats and heads? No thanks, those are questionable. I haven’t tried these on the street but I’m sure I will be making funny faces with each bite. So these chicken pieces are either grilled or mostly fried. Chicken feet are just scales and bones, I wonder if there is anything digestible from them
  •  Most Aromatic: Mahindi Choma: These are grilled corn kernels on the cob, they smell like what I imagine heaven smells like; heavenly. Mahindi Choma’s aroma is more intense and mouth-watering than fresh popcorn, I don’t know the science but it just does it! For mahindi choma, the maize on cob should be green but mature and firm. Dry maize doesn’t work. (I don’t know the difference between corn and maize and at this point, I’m too afraid to ask)
  •  Most Mouth-Watering: Chips Mwitu: My best guess at the meaning of chips mwitu is; underground chips? I know, terrible guess. More like fries but from Wish kinda vibes. But seriously, these are Kenyan-style French fries cooked on the street. This is the single nostalgic childhood street food for me. Chips mwitu was the most exciting part about the school day ending because right outside the gate there were several stalls. The chips were so aromatic that you couldn’t help but drool if you didn’t have the money. This made me steal coins from home to fund this lifestyle. Sorry mum, you had to find out this way. 
  •  Most Customizable: Kenyan Samosa: Samosas are not native to Kenya but here we have several twists. Samosas here have no rules, the only limit is your imagination. The customization is unlocked in terms of fillings of your choice; meat? peas? even rice? mashed potatoes? You can see where this is going right? Exactly.

Explore more Kenyan street foods on the link above.

What Makes Street Foods Special?

1. Taste

Home cooking won’t just cut it, the consistency of taste you get from street food is second to none, you already know how it is gonna taste and that is why you will crave that exact taste.

The same signature taste is all thanks to the vendors specializing in that one or two street foods for years mastering everything. For home-cooking it is more of combining ingredients than an art (which street food is)

2. Convenience

Thanks to the busy urban lifestyle, the convenience of grabbing a bite instantly goes a long way in contrast to restaurant dining or your typical fast food joint. Say you are a campus student on a 1-hour lunch break, you could just grab a freshly wrapped smocha prepared in front of your eyes in less than 3 minutes, shove it down your throat and wash everything off with some juice, all in under 10 minutes.

Now compare that to restaurant dining where you have to wait for the waiter to serve others, and since you are waiting, that makes you the waiter, place your order and then wait for minutes then get your food. 

3. Affordability & Value

You pay less and get more food,  which tastes good. Now that is beyond what I would term a good value meal or bite. Everything costs under $1, then who needs a fancy restaurant?

4. Personalization & Social Connection

I’m not exactly the best ambassador for social connection; in fact, I could use some help in that department. Mutura guys seem to get that since they are on one chopping board, eating mutura with a bunch of strangers while discussing last night’s football game as if they have known each other for years. Isn’t that beautiful?

However, I do find joy in the freestyle act of munching on food while awkwardly standing on a street corner, mere inches away from parked cars, with traffic whizzing past and generously garnishing my meal with a layers of dust. (I could use the extra minerals in the soil). Plus it just makes me feel extraordinarily humble.

On the personalization end, it is limitless you can ask anything to be prepared the way you like, skip on some ingredients you don’t like and so. Get extra additions of what you want at no additional cost too. Do you love extra sauce? Squirt it all over your chips mwitu or smocha as you love! Go ahead and even gulp it, no one cares


Street food may not have the best reputation for hygiene, but who cares about that when the taste is so divine? You might get stomach upsets or food poisoning so keep that in mind

Street foods won’t spare you coins or change, so good luck if you are planning to save up in that giant bottle that you crack open at the end of each year. So to answer the title, the section before this does it all.

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Related Links

Kenya’s Newest Food Sensation: Smocha Obsession.

More posts from the category: Snacks, Fast Food & Street Food

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