Are you a meat lover who is on the look-out for a taste which authenticates Kenyan culture this Christmas? Then nyama choma – the unofficial national Kenyan dish – is for you.
Kenyans are undoubtedly enthusiastic carnivores. Couple of nights ago, my Kenyan house-mate and I were stuck in a traffic jam late at night. Suddenly, she says – “I really feel like having nyama choma!”. Few minutes later, she was on a call with a choma joint asking if they can provide delivery to our house. At almost mid-night, my Kenyan housemates were munching heartily on their tasty nyama choma. The next morning, the one kilo of goat meat was almost completely demolished by my 2 Kenyan housemates!
So, what is nyama choma? Nyama choma literally means “roasted meat” in Swahili phrase, is the barbecue meat dish which can be enjoyed in every corner of any Kenyan town. Goat is the most common meat which is associated with nyama choma, but occasionally it may also be chicken, beef and even game animals such as ostrich and crocodile. Nyama choma is often served as chunks of meat on skewers as well as a selection of liver, ribs and intestines. It can usually be bought from an on-site butchery, generally purchased by weight.
Nyama choma is traditionally served on a wooden chopping board with a small pile of salt. This is a ritualistic washing of hands prior to the mastication of the meat as it is generally consumed without using any cutlery. Traditionally, nyama choma is seasoned only with the simple salt and pepper, but occasionally some may marinate their meat with onions, garlic, ginger or lemon juice. Ugali, a dense corn flour cake, and kachumbari salad, a refreshing mix of tomatoes, onions, chili pepper and coriander is the usual perfect complement to nyama choma. Tusker, Kenyan’s national beer is no doubt the best drink accompaniment to nyama choma.
The Kenya food passion for barbecue meat can be traced back to the Maasai people, one of whose main dishes was meat grilled over an open fire. Nowadays, Nyama choma means much more than that, it brings friends, families and communities together celebrating all occasions. As my housemate describes: a choma crave is not only a desire for grilled meat but a loveable sentiment of home. As Christmas is approaching, nyama choma will certainly not be missed in any Kenyan gatherings during this festive season!