Home Culture Swahili dishes that you should try while in Malindi

Swahili dishes that you should try while in Malindi

by Archie
biryani ya kuku au biriani ya kuku

Although many restaurants in Malindi are popular for Italian cuisines, there are a good number of local restaurants that specialize in Swahili dishes that will leave you yearning for more. The “Waswahili people in Kenya are known for their expertise in preparing meals that will provoke your taste buds just by their aroma. Malindi has been a Swahili settlement since the 14th century, so you are sure to find some of the best Swahili dishes in this part of coastal Kenya. Try out the following Swahili dishes before you leave the town:

Chai ya mkandaa

This is tea without milk. Its main ingredients are water, sugar and tea leaves but the Waswahili have made it more interesting by adding tangawizi (ginger), iliki (cardamoms) and mdalasini (cinnamon). These spices add a Swahili flavor to a simple Kenyan black tea and it is best enjoyed in the evenings when the sunsets.

chai ya mkandaa


Mbaazi are brown peas cooked in coconut sauce, usually served alongside mahamri(andazi) or chapati. Extra coconut sauce can also be served in some instances. Mbaazi goes really well with mahamri and chai ya mkandaa.

Tamarind juice

This is the most popular juice flavour among the Swahili people. Its sweet-sour taste will have you ordering more even before you finish downing your first glass. With the generally hot and humid weather in Malindi town, a glass of chilled tamarind juice on a hot afternoon will really help you cool off.


This rice mixed with meat and cooked in Swahili spices will definitely leave you licking your fingers and maybe even your plate just to make sure you have eaten every grain of rice that was served. The meat can be chicken, beef, or chevon. It is usually served with kachumbari and pilipili (cooked hot sauce) and goes well with a glass of chilled tamarind juice.


Viazi karai

This is the most popular quick-fix snack in Kenyan coastal towns, usually taken between 4pm and 6pm. They can also be taken in the morning hours to serve as breakfast. Viazi karai are deep fried potatoes that were initially boiled and mixed in wheat and gram flour. If you love spicy food, then you can have tamarind sauce, chatni, and pilipili served with your viazi karai.

viazi karai na pilipili ya ukwaju


This meal that has its roots in the Indian culture has been adopted by the Swahili people and is usually prepared in homes on Fridays. Restaurants that offer Swahili dishes, however, will serve this meal on a daily. The rice served alongside beef or chicken stew cooked in plain yoghurt and Indian spices is sure to give you mouthgasms (a word I created to refer to that good feeling in your mouth that comes after you’ve eaten something that’s really really delicious). Biryani goes well with a glass of cold passion or tamarind juice.

biryani ya kuku au biriani ya kuku
When you try these Swahili dishes, remember to use your bare hands to eat the food too. Believe it or not, abandoning the cutlery and using your hands to eat any Swahili dish makes the meal ten times more scrumptious!

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