Chinese cuisine delights taste buds of Kenyans

Updated: 2014-05-01 21:49


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NAIROBI - The way to a Kenyan's heart is through his stomach. Chinese restaurants are offering Kenyans diverse cuisine to their taste buds.

Eliud Ekiring is a chef who has worked at Fang Fang, a Chinese restaurant in Nairobi, for seven years. He learned the Chinese cuisine as a quite exotic skill, just because he loves it.

As most of his local colleagues did, he has learned the art through experience while serving in the kitchen under the tutelage of the Chinese restaurant owners. It took him about six months to be fully compliant in the skill.

"Although I cannot say that I can cook all types of Chinese foods, I am very conversant with those that are served in the eating place. However, given a recipe, it wouldn't take me long to come up with a tasty meal," Ekiring said.

More and more Chinese restaurants pop up in Kenya, especially in Nairobi, an indication that the Chinese presence in Kenya is not only technological, but also gastronomical.

With food averaging $15 in price in Fang Fang, the culinary outings are restricted more to the middle class and upper class Kenyans. Weekends have seen business thrives as mostly Kenyan customers take their families out.

Jacob Lukaka, a lecturer at the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi and also a gourmet, found the consonance between the Chinese food and Kenyan food.

"The community where I come from has a craving for chicken. When I was in China, I found out that chicken is a very popular delicacy in the country and hence my favorite dish was spiced chicken and noodles," he said.

To him, the Chinese food is also a reminiscence of his good days in China. He studied Chinese language and culture at Tianjin Normal University for four years before returning to Kenya.

"My Chinese workmate introduced me to their oriental cuisine, and ever since, I have become a frequent patron of Chinese eating places," Martin Obiero, a patron, told Xinhua at a Chinese restaurant in Nairobi.

"During lunchtime, for me it is usually a battle of wits between choosing nyama choma (roast meat) or chicken soaked in Shaoxing wine. More often than not, it is the latter choice that prevails," Obiero, an IT technician at a Chinese-owned company said.

Obiero says one of the things he has learnt about his Chinese workmates is the love for their culture which, he says they are more than willing to introduce to their acquaintances.

"The conventional Chinese culture is rich, and food is an integral part of Chinese culture. I have started learning the Chinese language also so that as they learn from me, I also learn from them."

The Chinese cuisine is not only just in the international metropolis city of Nairobi. In Nakuru-Eldoret highway, about 10 minutes' drive from Nakuru town situated about 160 km northwest of Nairobi, a Chinese restaurant opened since 2005 is growing popular among the Kenyans.

Lu, the owner of the restaurant said the popular dishes are Kung Pao Chicken. It's a mixture of the chicken, vegetables and the cashew nuts. "Kenyans really enjoy eating chicken and always come for it," she said.

With the Kenyan culture for the love of rice, fish and Nyama Choma (roasted meat), she provides the equivalent of the charming steamed rice and the sizzling beef as well as fish.

"Kenyans are friendly people and I have enjoyed serving them. Whenever I encourage them to try a different meal on the menu, they try and give me a response which is very encouraging," Lu said.

Lu gets her food supplies from the locals and her staff consist of trained local chefs and waiters.

Weekends are her busiest days as family and friends flock in to enjoy the delicacies. Among her customers are lawyers, university lectures and doctors.

She also receives Chinese customers on transit to or from Nairobi and those from the Indian community.

"I found in Kenyan culture, food is a best way to unite friends and family members. It's the same in Chinese culture," she added.


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