STREET FOOD REVIEW

The allure of vibanda meals

Klabu is a Nairobi street food market that offers meals at very affordable prices

In Summary

•The beauty of Klabu is it not only hosts food vendors but household items sellers

• Also, art vendors, butcheries and much more. It is a big, all-you-can-ask-for market

My recent culinary escapades led me to the depths of Dorobo Road to a large street food market called Club 36, or as the locals call it, Klabu.

The venue, next to Central Park in Nairobi, has so many options to choose from when it comes to meals. From fast foods to juices, snacks and heavy meals.

The scent of different meals wafts through the air from the moment you reach the vicinity, inviting, tempting, almost daring you to ignore them.

There are vendors everywhere, with makeshift buildings housing their establishments. Some have standing wooden stalls with seats to accommodate their clients, while others are just umbrellas with long benches lined beside them.

The beauty is it not only hosts food vendors but household items sellers, art vendors, butcheries and so much more. It is a big, all-you-can-ask-for market.

I started my day with a smocha. I was looking forward to having a rolex (chapati fried with eggs and rolled-up) but I was promised by everyone around that smocha would be among my ultimate Klabu experience. They did not lie.

A stand that sells smokies, boiled eggs, kebabs and other easy street foods.
A stand that sells smokies, boiled eggs, kebabs and other easy street foods.

Smocha is prepared by laying a smoked sausage or smokie on two chapatis, then stuffing it with kachumbari and drizzling desired sauces then wrapping it into a roll.

It is genius if nothing else, and the delicacy goes for only Sh50, a total steal.

The chapatis are easy to bite into but thick enough to satisfy. The kachumbari adds a crunchy taste to the meal and the sauces soften the chapatis as they soak into it.

The sausage gives it a meaty flavour. It is like a Kenyan shawarma.

After such a hefty start, one needs a cool drink to wash down the throat. Luckily Klabu is surrounded by juice bars with more than 10 different flavours to choose from.

The fresh fruit juices are produced in bulk and they usually mix up flavours to produce a cocktail for their customers upon request.

Bottles of different types of juices displayed in a wooden table
Bottles of different types of juices displayed in a wooden table

I had a mix of pineapple, mango and orange juice because it would be wrong not to explore under such circumstances.

The juice is not over diluted and you can actually taste the sweetness and flavours of the fruits.

On top of that, it’s really chilled, almost like it's been in the fridge, which isn’t the case as they are stored in big bottles displayed on top of the makeshift vibandas.

Juice flavours range from orange to mango, passion, pineapple, tamarind, mint, sugarcane and lemon and cocktails.

I learn that they can actually mix up to five different flavours in one cup for you and the price does not change at all.

For lunch, I was directed to ‘Kwa Shosh’ with the promise of the best pilau with huge portions.

On arrival, the place is quite full and alive with chatter. The patrons eagerly welcome me and direct me to a bench with free space. The seating area is spacious, just long benches placed on either side of wooden tables set on the bare ground. And the kitchen is located at the furthest end of the kibanda, near a banana plantation.

Upon further advice from the waiter, I ordered biriyani and ugali with beef stew, which goes for Sh100. I was looking forward to trying matumbo but they were currently out of it.

Chicken biriyani served with kachumbari and fresh salad
Chicken biriyani served with kachumbari and fresh salad
Image: HANNIE PETRA

The biriyani, which goes for Sh150, comes in a large plastic plate, and the presentation is really appealing. The rice is yellow in colour with salad on the side, kachumbari that has grated carrots, a boiled egg, a full boiled potato and a chunk of chicken meat, drizzled with thick soup on top.

The rice has a tangy, spicy taste and is well prepared. The salad is sweet, fresh and crunchy, which contrasts the taste of the meal.

The chicken is tender, really easy to bite into, and it has a lemon ginger taste. The boiled egg and potato chunk act as a beautiful bridge between the meal as they don’t have a lot of flavours in them.

The beef stew is thick with generous pieces of meat, which are tender and accompanied by well-steamed sukuma wiki. The ugali is not too soft nor too hard. It is easy to roll into a ball in your fingers and not sticky.

Ugali served with beef stew, sukuma wiki and pilipili on the side
Ugali served with beef stew, sukuma wiki and pilipili on the side
Image: HANNIE PETRA

There is chili upon request if you prefer spicy food.

I finished off my food escapades with a marinated chicken choma from Club 36 streets.

I was beyond full but the chicken looked really inviting due to the colour of the marinade used. It smells equally good as it is roasted over open fire.

It is incredibly soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside, with peppery, well-salted, garlic flavours enveloping it.

Club 36 is such an adventure. Not only are their meals affordable but the portions are really generous and the meals well prepared.

It is literally a food heaven.

Marinated kuku choma.
Marinated kuku choma.