The food may not be as refined as the French or as classic as Italian, but that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty to satiate hunger on the streets of Nairobi. Like most urban centers, the city does cater to Western travelers with spots offering more continental fare and European cuisine, but the best food on offer is traditional, cheap and of course, delicious. Local peppers, onions and tomatoes make up the base for most sauces, including the spicy garnish called kachumbari. Indian flavors permeate many of the traditional Kenyan dishes, including hot cups of early-morning Masala tea. Sit-down spots offer hearty meat stews poured over steaming plates of ugali, a stiff porridge made of maize and boiled water. One plate for lunch can keep a traveler full until breakfast.
Street food is easy to find in Nairobi, and while travelers are frequently warned about the risks of eating items sold informally, some of the best eating happens right next to the road. Roasted chicken and fried fish are skewered for easy consumption on the go. Fried Nsenene, or bush crickets, make for a quick and crispy snack. Vegetarians should seek out githeri, a dish made from kidney beans and ugali, while less adventurous eaters may want to start with small fried donuts called mandazi, which are a popular treat for local children.