Kenya, with their famous Masai Mara area where all big five game animals — lion, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard — can be seen, was on the top of many travelers’ list.
But before my trip can materialized, what better to explore its food while in Seattle.
Luckily, we have a Kenyan community here, and a Kenyan restaurant!
Safari Njema is definitely a family restaurant.
Our chef doubled up as the wait person, and tripled up as the cashier.
I could not speak for Safari Njema’s authenticity, but it was good news that other patrons were Africans, I assumed it would not be inauthentic.
Menu was a simple two-pager with five protein selections, and each entrée came with a choice of starch and a choice of vegetable.
There were a few appetizers and drinks; desserts were Western (chocolate cake, mango cheesecake etc.).
We ordered our food family style, and they came in a a huge platter.
Samaki (fried Tilapia), Mbuzi (goat) and Kuku (chicken) were our entrees, along with stir-fried vegetables, Matoke (fried green bananas), cabbage and Sukuma mix (spinach and collard), pilau (rice) and Ugali (Kenyan cornbread).
On the side, my friend had this delicious ginger drink, served hot or cold, that had nice, fragrant ginger flavor but without the spicy kick.
I had something called Uji brown health drinks.
Turned out, it was a fermented millet drink, which was warm, thick, tangy and grainy.
The drink itself was very filling, and much more like a breakfast item to me than a drink to complement a meal.
Fish was fried crispy, plain and simple.
The flavors on the goat was delightful, and a tad overcooked; chicken flavor was also really good, but also a bit dry.
The Ugali, Kenyan cornbread was very interesting.
It was white in color, and reminded me a little of Chinese steamed rice buns, but with a strong corn flavor; grainy, as expected from cornbread, but surprisingly bland.
It was good to eat with the entrée’s sauce, but I was not a fan of it on its own.
Safari Njema’s rice pilaf was super delicious and fluffy, with plenty of aromatic spices, very addictive.
Our party was very much looking forward to the fried green bananas, mashed and cooked with fragrant cilantro.
Tasted like potatoes but just a little sticky in the palate., it was a delight.
Of all the side dishes, the Sukuma mix was my favorite, with finely chopped spinach and collard; second best, cabbage, simply stir-fried to tenderness.
I know it is not fair to compare different country’s cuisine, but food at La Teranga (Senegalese) was at a higher level than Safari Njema; I am, however, grateful that we have another chance to peak at the window of African cuisine in Seattle!