My curiosity for West African food was first sparked on Twitter, during one of those recurring battles Kenyans On Twitter start with other countries.
This time it was a fight with Nigeria, with the two countries throwing shade at the culture, dressing, food, and women of the other.
‘Kenyans are the white people of Africa! The most tasteless food I’ve ever had!’ read one tweet, with an attached photo of a sufuria full of mashakura. Now, mashakura is a concoction of veggies and meats, carrots, peas, boiled in a large pot of water, that is popular with Central Kenya folk. Nobody knows why anyone needs so much soup. The story goes that since our Central Kenya friends are too busy solving bigger issues in the country, they have no time to prepare a decent dish. So they throw everything in a large sufuria, pour like 1,000 litres of water into the appalling mixture and they go to work.
I was tempted to respond to that tweet and ask that next time they are in Kenya, they should try our delectable fish stews from Nyanza, chicken, and ugali from Western, pilau and biryani from the Coast, and so many other sumptuous dishes we have to offer. Instead, I vowed to try West African food, if not for anything, to know where we fall short.
Mama Ashanti was my first try, where I intended to start with the famed Jollof. I opted to pair this with goat stew. I will break down this review in 5 parts, The Food, The Service, The Ambience, The Location, and the Price.
Guys, the goat stew! I want to attach a GIF of a happy dance because that is what I wanted to do the moment I had my first taste. Orgasmic. The thickest, most flavourful goat soup I have had in a while. I loved it, I really did. This is the kind of soup we all need on a Monday morning to start our day. A stew that brightens your mood and heals your troubled heart. It was perfect.
Now, the Jollof rice, which is what I wanted to try, was a bit underwhelming. Not bad, just a little not what I expected. I had imagined (from all the hype and online recipes of Jollof) a very spicy dish, with an array of organic ingredients (the gingers, peppers, garlics etc.) which was not the case. The rice was okay though, pretty to look at, but- it was just fried rice.
West Africans who say Kenyan food is bland, IS THIS IT? Because you guys DO KNOW we have fried rice, yes? Maybe I should travel to the West and try it from there.
The service at Mama Ashanti is quite decent. The waiting staff are kind, they will give you a warm welcome at the entrance, and guide you to your table. They are also quite knowledgeable about the menu, which comes in handy if you are not sure what to order.
I also found them quite good conversationalists, not just there to take your order and scurry away. And I really love the African vibe they have going with their Kente fabric uniforms.
There was live music! OMG! I wish restaurateurs knew how important it is to serve your clientele some good live performances on warm Saturday afternoons! Or every day if you can. This makes a place all the better to dine at and while the time away! I literally did not want to leave because listening to Elion Victory makes you appreciate life more, no matter how shitty your circumstances are. He was belting out the most amazing renditions of great Kenyan songs and throwing in some rhumba here and there. I had to order an extra drink just so I could enjoy the music a bit longer.
Now, to the general aura of Mama Ashanti, the restaurant has a beautiful garden setup. The seats are in clusters of four or more, under sun umbrellas. This setup would be really great for groups of people and families, and Nairobi could definitely do with more family-friendly setup in restaurants.
For the quality and quantity of their food, I would say they offer fair prices. I had the most delicious stew and rice, a glass of passion juice, and a cider, and my bill was KES 2200. My order, if not extremely famished, can feed two people. I had to ask them to pack, after giving up the battle to finish all that food.
Most of the dishes at Mama Ashanti are below KES 1500, with about KES 2500 you can have whatever you want on the menu and probably more. And I mean anything not everything.
Mama Ashanti is easily accessible; Muthangari Gardens off Gitanga Road. Because we live in a digital world, and you reading this article means you are tech-savvy, hence, it shouldn’t be a problem reading Google Maps, right? Just type in Mama Ashanti and you’ll be good. It’s very hard to get lost, trust me.
Overall, I am confident this is just the start of me experimenting with hyped West African foods. There were items such as Okra soup, Ogbono soup, Egusi and Eforiro which I am yet to try. I will definitely go back for these. If not for anything, then to know if West African food is really better than ours.
As I plan for that, I would recommend you go try the goat stew, and let me know if it awakens your senses as it did mine.