Serving Swahili foods, culture in business lunches

Maharagwe ya nazi with chapati for the Swahili breakfast. PHOTO | COURTESY
Maharagwe ya nazi with chapati for the Swahili breakfast. PHOTO | COURTESY 

Simply elegant, clean taste with a sweet aroma, occasionally creamy and vegetarian; that is what the current diner wants, according to Sarova Stanley executive chef Godfrey Ouda.

And Sarova Stanley is meeting the needs of this customer with introduction of Swahili Friday—serving a full Swahili breakfast and business lunch.

With the Swahili cuisine, the hotel is catering for the business traveller who has no time to sample local cuisine and foreign tourists.

‘‘You’ll see them opt for samaki wa kupaka and kuku wa kupaka instead of the western dishes and the feedback has been so good,” says Godfrey.

There has been an increase in the number of business travellers in the country and their primary question is always, “we’ve heard of Mombasa, but what is this Swahili food?”, said Shailender Singh,the director of Food and Beverage Operations.


Sarova Stanley Chefs making Swahili breakfast at the hotel. PHOTO | COURTESY

Sarova Stanley Chefs making Swahili breakfast at the hotel. PHOTO | COURTESY

“They don’t talk Kenyan, they talk Swahili because of the language. While the Tuskers {beer} and nyama choma continue being popular, but Swahili food is more exotic because you can weave a whole story line around it,” he said.

The flavours are so unique and very rich and at the naturally lit, exquisite restaurant, there is a station for lady chefs from the coast making Swahili dishes as the guests watch.

It smells like a typical kitchen in Mombasa, and it is interactive, with the chefs sharing tips and tricks for the business traveller looking for authentic, local cuisine.

The hotel plans to extend the Swahili menu into tea time and over Ramadan, Iftar (breaking of the Muslim fast at sun down).

“African traditional dishes are becoming more appreciated by the tourists and health-conscious and Swahili food has had a large influence on Kenyan cuisine, from the Arab traders, to the Indians who came with the Lunatic Express,” said Shailender, a former chef turned director.

Expand palates

Every year, the hotel sends its chefs to the Gulf Food Festival to interact with their contemporaries from around the world, learn new things, and eat new foods, to expand their palates and draw from this experience to the local scene.

This inspired the move to the Arab-inspired tastes. The palate is defined by the way one grew up, their level of exposure and favourite comfort foods. As one progresses in life, so do the palate choices.

Health and the region one finds themselves in or the traditional influences too impact food choices and what we appreciate.

As Kenyan palates change, more are going vegan. Godfrey says since starting the Swahili breakfast, more people come in and need only vegetarian.

‘‘It’s quite interesting to hear Kenyans asking ‘what vegetarian options can we get in Swahili food?’’ he said, adding that the foods like mbaazi and viazi karai peak the interest of the clients.