Monday, September 15, 2014

Food in Kenya and Tanzania

Food is normally a big focus of our trips (for me anyway) and I love trying the local cuisine, and particularly any unusual aspects of the local cuisine. However, Africa presented a different kind of animal in that regard. We weren't eating what the local Africans were eating, and for once, I didn't feel any big push to try and do so. As we drove down the roads I was not seeing any restaurants I wanted to try. On the contrary, I cannot recall seeing any restaurants I would really be willing to eat at. There was a level of infrastructure, hygiene and cleanliness that was missing. We did see an occasional butcher shop and we did pass roadside stands selling food items, particularly vegetables, that I would love to have stopped at. I tried on a number of occasions to get our driver to stop, but could never get him to do so. I'm not sure if part of that was that it was not safe for us to stop in some of those places - I got the sense that might have been the case in a few places, or if it was always attributable to the fact that we were traveling in a big caravan with about seven other vehicles and could not interrupt the flow. 

We were instructed not to drink anything but bottled water and to avoid fruits and vegetables unless they were peeled or cooked. I tried to follow those guidelines for the most part, but at the Sarova Shaba Lodge I did eat a couple of salads. The salad maker was kind of loud and charismatic and created an individualized salad for each person with a running commentary during the process. The salads were good, but watching him make them was even better. I did not get sick, so it turned out okay. I also often ate the tomatoes and cucumber slices, even if unpeeled, but for the most part avoided the lettuce. 
One of my salads at the Sarova Shaba. It doesn't look like much, but it was quite risky to eat the lettuce. It tasted wonderful. Several cheese slices, including Brie on the outer edge of the plate, and a piece of some sort of meat. 
Africans have a bland diet. I got a big-time feel for that when I tried arrow root on several occasions (at the Intercontinental Nairobi and at the Sarova Shaba). It was absolutely horrible. Starchy, heavy and bland, it made the taro I remember from my days in Hawaii seem appetizing. 
A big cannister full of arrow root at the Nairobi Intercontinental. They must have lots of local Africans eating there because I'd be shocked if any Americans or Europeans are eating it. 
The locals love goat, but they don't feed it to the tourists. Our driver, Stephen, indicated that goat was his favorite meat and there are occasions when they feed meals to the drivers that include goat, but no such luck for us. We did get quite a bit of lamb, but it was often overcooked. I always tried it when offered, and never really had any I loved. 
A plate of food at the Sarova Shaba. Boiled vegetables (carrots, peas, potatoes), lamb, drumstick and some sort of fish, perhaps Nile perch. 
We had Nile perch on a number of occasions. I believe they caught the fish in Lake Victoria. It was okay, but always over-cooked. 
Nile perch at the Nairobi Intercontinental. Brought in from Lake Victoria. 
My favorite dish was at the Serena hotel in the Serengeti. They were serving pork chops for lunch that had been marinated in a spicy sauce and cooked up nicely. After trying one, I went back to the chef and asked if he would specially cook some more for me, but this time, under-cook them a little bit, so they were still a little rare. They warned me about under-cooking pork, but I told them I'd take the risk. They cooked two pork chops for me that were absolutely fantastic, some of the best pork chops I've ever had anywhere. 
The great pork chops are at the far side of the plate. They also had some very nice cooked vegetables at the Serena Serengeti.  Cheese is on the left side of the plate.
I think all of our meals were buffet style. 
Different kinds of breads at the Nairobi Intercontinental. I did not each much bread, but many people did not like it. 
Various kinds of cooked vegetables and meats at the Nairobi Intercontinental.
The meat slices.
Fruits, including passion fruit which we got on a number of occasions. Watermelon was also common. 
The buffet line at the Sarova Lion Hill in Lake Nakuru NP. This was some of the most unusual and good food on our tip. 
A sampler plate from the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge. Cooked spinach, lamb stew and cooked vegetables.
Sausage, grilled (blackened) lamb, cooked vegetables at the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge.
Cheese, olives, corn, tomato, cucumber at the Serena Ngorongoro.
In a couple of places we could order off a menu as well. That was the case at the Mountain Lodge in Mt. Kenya National Reserve. I ordered some lamb which was pretty good, probably the best lamb of the trip. 
Good lamb and cooked vegetables at the Serena Mountain Lodge. I believe the yellow vegetables to the left are cooked yams (real African yams, not the sweet sweet potato kind we Americans are used to). 
Judy with a breakfast of poached eggs, nice bacon and a stewed tomato at the Serena Mountain Lodge. 
Soup (I don't remember the type) at the Serena Mountain Lodge. 
Most had an omelette station in the morning. I ate omelettes the first few days and then tried to avoid them. 
Omelette station at the Nairobi Intercontinental.
Omelette with cooked vegetables, arrow root, Nile perch, smoked salmon and baked beans at the Nairobi Intercontinental.  
Omelette with either baked potatoes or yams and a peeled tomato at the Serena Mountain Lodge.
Most had a fair amount of Indian food. The hotels tend to be Indian owned. But I avoided eating the Indian food. It just did not appeal to me at the time. One of the members of our group loves Indian food and she feasted on it regularly. 
Some sort of Indian dish at the Serena Mountain Lodge. Judy ordered it. I don't think I ate any Indian food. 
We did have a fantastic meal at the Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi which I've blogged about previously. It was definitely the best meal of our trip. 
A plate full of a variety of meats at the Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi. 


  1. In a country of colorful scenery, interesting people, and exotic animals, would never have guessed African diets are bland.

  2. I think overall I enjoyed the food more than you did. I liked the interesting array served at breakfast, and I had some pretty good meat dishes for dinner. The box lunches we had on a few occasions, however, were awful, but that's probably true of a box lunch anywhere.