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ELECTION 2022

Kenyan cuisine can be the new tourist attraction

XN IRAKI
By XN Iraki | Dec 22nd 2021 | 2 min read

Mahamri served by a Coastal hotel.

A hotel in Mombasa has leveraged on the coastal cuisine to attract clients. For breakfast, women, dressed in traditional attire, cook mahamri, kaimati, mandazi, mkate wa sinia, among other coastal dishes. I sampled the offerings and loved them, a welcome break from Nairobi’s monotony.

The beach and the warm weather are some of the key attractions to the coast. There are other salient and less publicised attractions that I will leave you to speculate. Don't scratch your head pretending not to know.

Why do we forget that food can be a big attraction to Kenya? Our food; from biryani, muthokoi, mukimo, to pilau or viazi karai are unique and tasty. That is why it is ingenious for this hotel to give its customers a taste of local foods. Find out which hotel it is.

Visitors from upcountry and other countries would be more at home eating local foods than fast foods. The uniqueness of food makes it very competitive, and it is hard to copy. Tell a mzungu to cook ugali for you. Tell Akinyi to make Muthokoi or Wanjiku to prepare fish.

Other high-end hotels have tried to incorporate local foods from mushenye, which is sweet potatoes mashed with beans, according to Nelly Busanju Sinja from Kitale.

We need to extend our tourists attractions to gastronomy. We need to visit Ghana and learn how they have made their food an attraction. In a five-star hotel, you find most of their local foods; from fufu to kenke and lots of soups. Remember such visitors have money. Asians are also great in traditional foods. Remember Chinese, Japanese or Vietnam restaurants? What's wrong with having Kamba, Kisii, Luo, Rendille restaurants?

Other countries are known for their foods; like American hamburgers, Japanese Sushi or Ugandan matoke. What is the authentic Kenyan meal? We could say it’s ugali - brown or white? With what type of stew? It’s time we standardised our ugali, mukimo, kimanga, muthokoi and other traditional foods. Former ICT PS Bitange Ndemo is advocate of standardising our foods.  

And who knows, we could end up with Kenyan restaurants in other countries, branding our country and making us lots of money and catalysing our economic growth. We should try any strategy that can help us pull out of Covid-19 induced contraction.

What’s the favorite food in your county or where you live? Do you think it should be declared a national food? 

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