NIGERIAN CUISINE IN KENYA

Authentic Naija food experience

Exploring and learning about Nigerian cuisines and their similarities with other African meals.

In Summary

• There were over 10 different meals to choose from the buffet table. Hephie encouraged me to try everything and to go for seconds till I couldn’t stand.

• However, the highlight of my day was trying the crab legs. Such a messy but interesting meal. Breaking it was quite the task but I wasn't going to back down.

From left to right, stewed chicken, ponmo, mackerel, puff puffs, kachumbari and salad. Bowl of jollof rice, bowl of catfish pepper soup, swallow in the middle. Crab leg, pepper tilapia, egusi moi moi and efo riro.
From left to right, stewed chicken, ponmo, mackerel, puff puffs, kachumbari and salad. Bowl of jollof rice, bowl of catfish pepper soup, swallow in the middle. Crab leg, pepper tilapia, egusi moi moi and efo riro.
Image: HANNIE PETRA

Truth be told, all I knew about Nigerian food (up until recently) was jollof rice, fufu and the sheer fact that they drown their meals in chili.

All that changed when I got the chance to attend the Feast for Friends, Naija food Mixer event hosted by Hephie's Kitchen at the rooftop of Purple Haze, Kilimani.

On arrival, I was welcomed with a cup of orange, cucumber and lime water and a gift bag with candy, masks and funnily enough eno and menthol flavoured chewing gum.

Cucumber, orange and lime detox water/ gift bag from Hephie next to a decorative centrepiece.
Cucumber, orange and lime detox water/ gift bag from Hephie next to a decorative centrepiece.
Image: HANNIE PETRA

That was Hephie’s cute way of telling her guests it was going to be a great feast and she got you, in case you had to tap out midway.

There was upbeat Nigerian music playing from the speakers encouraging guests to mingle and get on their feet as they awaited the meals.

The seating area was beautifully set with shades of black, nude centre pieces and touches of African prints casually placed around.  As well as art pieces displayed on planters that surrounded the seating area.

Hephzibah Osinubu, the creative behind Hephie's kitchen and the Feast for Friends Naija Food Mixer.
Hephzibah Osinubu, the creative behind Hephie's kitchen and the Feast for Friends Naija Food Mixer.
Image: HANNIE PETRA

Hephzibah Osinubi, started shipping ingredients from Nigerian and preparing meals in 2020, a few months after she'd moved to Nairobi, Kenya.

"I missed food from home a lot and I knew other expatriates did too. I also wanted my Kenyans friends to resonate with me when I talked about my native meals." She adds.

She started the cloud kitchen in the middle of a global pandemic, all guts, passion and a little bit of fear. The kitchen has since grown and has a physical location now.

Laid at the buffet table, were over 10 different meals to choose from. Hephie encouraged me to try everything and to go for seconds till I couldn’t stand.

“Today is for eating, enjoying music and making friends. You should eat and eat.” Hephie said in her cheerful voice.

Hephie explaining the meals laid out and what goes best with what for an authentic Naija experience.
Hephie explaining the meals laid out and what goes best with what for an authentic Naija experience.
Image: Charlene Malwa

The layout of the meals and the aroma wafting around was impressive and very inviting. There were different bowls and plates, some with wooden vibes and others decorated for different meals.

I started the day with pepper catfish soup, the catfish is an acquired taste the soup is spicy but light. Then I tried egusi and efo riro with swallow. I preffered efo riro (mixed spinach stew) to egusi (ground pumpkin seeds with red palm oil, African crayfish, seasoning, hot pepper and some form of leafy greens.) though they are almost similar in taste.

I enjoyed swallow,( Nigerian version of ugali made from pounded yams.) It has a distinct almost sweet yet watery taste and goes really well with all the stews present.

Ponmo (goat/cow skin) and asun (spicy roast goat)lived up to the Nigerian stereotype, both were loaded with chili. My tongue almost fell off but I was determined to sample this Nigerian favourite and live to tell the story.

Wooden platter of ponmo, asun, gzidodo, salad and stewed pepper chicken.
Wooden platter of ponmo, asun, gzidodo, salad and stewed pepper chicken.
Image: HANNIE PETRA

"Traditionally it's a really spicy meal, pepper is the main ingredient. I couldn't make it less hot even if I tried." Hephie says, trying to stifle a laugh as she looks at my face when I take the first bite.

Your mouth knows you're eating meat and you can see caramelized onions but truth is minus the chewiness, you can barely taste anything minus pepper. I guess the flavours start sinking in the more your palate gets accustomed to the meal.

The salad did help neutralize the tongue a little bit.

Egusi, moi moi stewed pepper tilapi and crab leg served with creamy seafood.
Egusi, moi moi stewed pepper tilapi and crab leg served with creamy seafood.
Image: HANNIE PETRA

However, the highlight of my day was trying the crab legs. Such a messy but interesting meal. Breaking it was quite the task but I wasn't going to back down. The meat inside taste almost like a blend of shrimps and calamari, though more tender. And the inside is filled with soup, it is prepared with other sea foods such as octopus.

Puff puff's and spring rolls were my favourite biting, I couldn't help but stuff my mouth with them, absolutely.

There were meals such as akara (deep-fried bean cake made from black-eyed beans paste), moi moi( beans pudding mixed with onions, pepper and sliced boiled eggs), egusi (ground pumpkin seeds with red palm oil, African crayfish, seasoning, hot pepper and some form of leafy greens), efo riro, seafood okro, ewedu, gbegiri (African Honey beans or brown beans, mixed with locust beans. Soaked to soften then peeled or not and cooked until very soft and blended into a very smooth and velvety soup), mackerel, stewed chicken, beef, tilapia, ox tail, gizzards and plantain dishes present.

I finished the meal with the tastiest donuts I've ever had. The donuts are really soft, warm and mildly sweet but the icing on top (quite literally) is what seals the deal. The frosting used is sweet and sorta hard but sweetly melts on your mouth once you bite into it.

Fresh baked donuts with icing and glazed with different toppings.
Fresh baked donuts with icing and glazed with different toppings.
Image: HANNIE PETRA

There was also tea, hot chocolate, and coffee present to go with the delicious treats.

Hephie redefines Nigerian cuisine and her bubbly spirit makes you feel at home. The kitchen not only serves Nigerian meals now but also Ghanaian, Moroccan, Ethiopian, and Kenyan dishes.

If you want to take your taste buds on a journey across Africa do check out @hephies_kitchen across all social media platforms. They do takeouts and deliveries. Orders are purely online. cover events as well.

The kitchen also hosts events every last Saturday of the month to let people come and mingle and enjoy Nigerian culture.

Do come back and tell me how you fancied the pepper.