August 1, 2011

Wow them with my filleting

Since arriving in Nairobi 4 weeks ago (I'm celebrating my 1 month anniversary on the 5th!), I have partaken of the following cuisines: Kenyan (duh), Egyptian, Ethiopian, Korean, Lebanese, Japanese, Meat (yes, apparently carnivorous is a cuisine) and American (brunch).

Kenyan food is fairly straight-forward: Choose your meat (beef, chicken, goat or fish), choose your starch (rice, chapati, or ugali), and typically served with sauteed collared greens or cooked cabbage, sometimes a fresh tomato salad. Chapati is the Kenyan version of a pita or naan type bread, and ugali is a starchy blob that tastes like cream of wheat that's been boiled down until it becomes a sticky solid lump. As I happen to like fish, greens, and cream of wheat, this diet works rather well for me.

The first time I went to a Kenyan restaurant with some coworkers, they asked (with some sense of amusement) if I had ever seen/consumed a fish that was served its entirety. Having both lived in Greece and also worked in a restaurant where I was trained to serve and prepare large sea bass by cutting off the head, tail, and removing a full fish skeleton, I smirked, thinking that I would wow them with my filleting skills. As usual, the joke was ultimately on the foreigner, because you eat all of this with your HANDS.

Actually, etiquette dictates you eat it with ONE hand (the right), although I have seen other people using two, so it seems to be a loose rule. But either way, that is one messy messy lunch. The lack of an "after" picture denotes my desire to preserve the hygienic integrity of my camera for as long as possible.

As for the "meat" cuisine (style akin to a Brazilian steak-house with exotic fare), one can find more details and pictures from Laura, but suffice it to say, I consumed camel, ostrich, and crocodile. The fiery circle where all skewers meet (meat, ha) their fate:

One of my favorite things about dining out in Nairobi are the restaurants themselves. Consistent with the other high levels of security, they are gated and look like nothing more than private driveways from the main road. This is the entrance to the Korean place where I had the lovely patio party last week:

But then you go inside and find delightful gardens with patio tables, soft music, dusk lighting, and playgrounds for children. Here, the Egyptian restaurant with lovely ambiance, hookah aroma, and delicious food:

Of course, it's not all dining out seven days a week... I do have a kitchen where I keep and make food. In fact, my kitchen is currently housing fresh mango, dried mango, and mango juice. And some African wine (though Chilean, Spanish, and Italian are also readily available at grocery stores).

And tea. Lots of tea. Most people here take it with much milk and sugar, but that's not really my thing. In fact, after trying a few rounds of Kenyan milk, I've given up on cereal and developed a new breakfast routine: Black tea, fresh papaya, and bread with strong African honey.

Breakfast of Champions? Don't mind if I do!

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