The Kenyan island of Mombasa is home to a small community of Yemeni immigrants, who have a distinctive cuisine that is inspired by Arab traditions and East African flavours. Aisha Silim, a local food blogger, is keen to introduce us to the foods of her hometown, and is preparing a typical Yemeni-Kenyan feast of samosas, chicken pilau, sweet coconut mandazi, and more.
Kenyan sambusas are distinctive for their light phyllo pastry shells, and these versions are stuffed with minced beef green onions and coriander seeds
Mahamri & Maharagw
This bread is kneaded with coconut and ground cardamom, and then fried to a crisp golden brown. It’s an incredibly popular snack in East Africa; and in the Yemeni city of Mukalla, it’s loved so much that the city hosts an annual day-long festival to celebrate it. The mahamri is paired with maharagwe – a dish of white kidney beans simmered in coconut. Best eaten with your hands, the mahamri is used to scoop up the creamy maharagwe.
It is Friday tradition for Arab families in Mombasa to have this for lunch, after afternoon prayers at the mosque. It’s a richly flavourful dish of chicken, rice, and potatoes braised with garlic, ginger, and plenty of caramelized onions. It’s infused with a spice mix of cloves, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper, and served with mango pickle and shredded cucumber yoghurt on the side.
These turmeric-tinged potatoes are a sour/sweet accompaniment to the pilau and are sautéed with cabbage, green chilies, carrots, and green mangos.
Coconuts grow in abundance in the town of Mombasa, and you’ll find it in almost every other dish in the coastal city. In this one, chopped spinach is lightly sautéed with coconut sauce, green chilies, and fresh coriander.
These sweet, crunchy, and fluffy fritters are a typical dessert in both the Middle East and East Africa. This version is made a reduction of saffron simple syrup.
We’ll finish off the meal with a warm drink of cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger.
$50 + HST
Aisha Silim is a food-obsessed blogger based in Toronto, and is originally from the Yemeni diaspora of East Africa. Her ancestors left Hadhramaut, Yemen in the mid 20th century because they got tired of the food shortages, and have been global nomads ever since. In her previous career, she was a Middle East journalist and came to Toronto via Kenya, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and England.
Aisha has an interest in issues of food, race, and gender; and loves showcasing the restaurants of immigrants and people of colour in this city.
You can find her on Instagram at @salt.and.saffron
Every weekend The Depanneur invites a guest chef to host a fun, informal dinner party.