Foodways Friday: Mukimo
This urban dish is brought to us from Nairobi, Kenya, by Alice Odour. Alice explained that in the last few years, the city of Nairobi has rapidly expanded to include more and more factories and apartment buildings. Kenyans from diverse communities outside the city are streaming in, bringing with them diverse food and cultural traditions and new challenges for an urban cook.
The vegetable medley called mukimo is common in Nairobi as a side for meals such as roasted chicken. While explaining how to make this dish, Alice added that in Nairobi, meals are social, and the guest list is often fluid. If you see a friend in the street, you might invite them to dinner—and they might also bring a friend or two. Muki momight be one of many dishes on the table to feed a large number of people.
She explained how important it is to always have a variety of foods, not only so that there will be enough to eat but also so each guest will have something to please his or her taste. Alice said that in her part of Kenya it’s rude to ask what kinds of food people like; instead, a cook has to guess and offer a wide variety for dinner. Don’t worry—this dish is a crowd pleaser!
1 lb or 6 cups spinach or kale (In Nairobi, pumpkin leaves are used. Kale has a similar flavor, but Alice insists the pumpkin is much better.)
4-5 sweet or white potatoes
1-2 cobs of corn
2-3 spring onions, chopped
2 tbs vegetable oil
Salt to taste
- Boil the potatoes until soft. Mash (as smooth or chunky as you like) and set aside.
- Boil spinach or kale until soft. Puree or finely chop the leaves into a semi-liquid. Pour the spinach over the mashed potatoes and stir together.
- Boil the corn. Slice kernels from cob and add to potato-spinach mixture.
- Saute onions in vegetable oil. Strain the onions to remove all oil and add to the mash. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
Serve warm with chicken, beef, or fish.
Michaela Wright worked as a production intern for the 2014 Folklife Festival. She studies anthropology and art history at the College of William and Mary.