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  • Maisie Schorr

Kiberan Cuisine: The Unique Dishes That Makes Kibera Special

At the heart of Kiberan cuisine are kibandas, small roadside eateries. If you’re looking for quintessential Kiberan meals, that's where you go. They serve fried or dried fish, samosas, changaa, extremely potent home-brewed alcohol, githeri (a mixture of maize and beans), charcoal-roasted corn on the cob, muturu, sausage made from the intestines of goats or cows, boiled cassava, and chips. An increase in poverty tourism and the fact that many Kiberans don’t have access to cooking facilities has made it possible for a large portion of Kibera’s population to make a living as street vendors. Mary Nasia, for example, cooks and sells beans on the roadside. To The Guardian reporter Kate Holt, she said, “People like my beans and I am happy to sit here and watch the world go by.”

Rice pitau and ugali are also typical Kiberan meals. Ugali is a white cornmeal paste used as a vessel for meat or vegetables. The traditional way of eating ugali is to roll a lump of it into a ball, use your thumb to create a depression, and then use it to scoop up stew. Rice pitau, on the other hand, is typically served on Eid Mubarak. Kibera’s cuisine has been developed out of the overwhelming need for low cost food that will serve the entire family. In addition to this, outside influences such as Kenya’s history with British colonization as well as Kenya’s roots in the Kikuyu tribe has impacted the dishes that are celebrated in Kibera.

While street vendors provide opportunities for individuals to sit and have a snack or buy dinner for their entire family, the pandemic has hurt this industry as well as Kiberan residents' access to food. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity globally as prices have soared, adults are out of jobs, and students no longer have access to school-subsidized meals. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), often the only food a Kiberan child eats in a day is what they are served at school. With less students attending school due to the pandemic and certain programs being cut for health or financial reasons, many Kiberan children are going hungry. In addition to this, as climate change will only exacerbate heatwaves and droughts, food shortages will likely become common in places such as Kibera, and more food deserts will arise. While the cuisine of Kibera is flavorful, unique, and represents a cultural melting pot, not all Kiberans are able to find or afford food for themselves and their families, resulting in the slum’s delicacies often going unappreciated.



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