Revellers throng first Mombasa Food Festival since Covid

Thursday, September 30th, 2021 00:00 |
A vendor prepares shawarrma for a client. Photo/PD/BONIFACE MSANGI

We arrive at the Mombasa Food Festival at Mama Ngina Waterfront Park on Sunday afternoon to the appetizing aroma of a mixture of coastal dishes.

Food vendors from every corner of the coastal counties made their presence at the park with a food stall, showcasing different kinds of coastal delicacies, making it a culinary delight for visitors that attended.

At first it was rather confusig where to begin from as every stall had mouth-watering delicacies that seemed to be calling us by our names with their tantalising, sizzling hot delicacies.

We decide to start with the Swahili bhajias anyway, and we don’t regret our choice.

The bhajias are made with ground pea-flour and an assortment of vegetables, served with chatini (a homemade local condiment of tomatoes, garlic, onions, lots of red chilies and spices) chilli sauce and tamarind sauce.

It was my first time eating them with the homemade chili sauce, and I promise you they were the yummiest bhajias I have ever tasted!

The tomato taste kind of neutralises the chili such that it’s a mix of both hot and sweet.

The prices were also friendly as six bhajia pieces were going for roughly Sh50, almost half the price outside the event. 

We also got to sample and help prepare another one of the most popular street foods in the region mshikaki (a snack made of spicy skewered beef, chicken, mutton, goat or even fish).

I am not a red meat lover; luckily enough there were tents that had prepared purely white meat, including seafood and chicken. 

On our next stop, we struggled deciding which stall would be the best shawarma place… so we went from one vendor to another checking out services and prices.

Normally, out of the event, chicken shawarmas start from Sh250 and above for the small size, but today, there were stalls selling the small shawarma wrap for Sh150 and others at Sh200.

Shawarma is a popular Levantine Arab specialty dish consisting of meat cut into thin slices, stacked in a cone-like shape, and roasted on a slowly-turning vertical rotisserie or spit.

We find ourselves at the Barka Restaurant stall where Chef Noor Mwinyi asks us to take a seat and be served because well… it was raining orders, but after seeing our camera, he decides to serve us first. 

Dessert time brings us to Rayyan Premium dates tent who are offering about eight different samples of dates.

Dates have various nutritional values and can be used to make smoothies, juices and in baking.

The matwag dates are specially made to be served with coffee.  Ajwa and Ajwa Awal (dark in colour) have medicinal value as they are used to cure both diabetes and hypertension.

“Ajwa dates are the first grade natural medicine for hypertension, diabetes and other diseases, while Ajwa Awal is supportive for the first.

Eating three pieces of the dates in the morning for three days flushes out all disease from the body.

For children, it can be blended into a juice for easy digestion,” educates the date vendor, Abubakar Mohammed. 

The rich Coastal culture is one of the major factors that put Kenya on the top charts of holiday destinations worldwide.

The food especially, is a whole celebration on its own. The two-day food festival, which returned after a one year break due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic was hosted by the Mombasa county government in partnership with  other tourism industry players in a bid to revive the hospitality sector, which had been greatly affected by the pandemic.

According to Mombasa county Tourism Chief Officer Aisha Abdi, the event was a springboard towards celebrating World Tourism Day, which was marked on Monday.

It attracted over 70 food vendors, most of whom had been badly affected by the pandemic and were finding it hard to reopen due to financial strains, and thousands of residents and local tourists flocked the venue ready to savour the many Swahili dishes. 

Also, notable was the beautiful location, the newly refurbished Sh460 million worth Mama Ngina waterfront, especially on days like these when people are striving to adhere to social distancing measures.

People who had not been at the park before will definitely be visiting this spot; the beaches view, the cool breeze, the street food and entertainment on ordinary days is definitely something to live for.

In fact, just sitting and enjoying the beach view is overly therapeutic I have to say. 

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