They say the best meals come from the Coast and I sort of agree. I recently indulged in a full Swahili menu at the Mdalasini Restaurant at Hotel Portico. Located off Valley Road in Nairobi city, Mdalasini which means cinnamon in English, is a naturally-lit, serene dining hall, airy balcony and sunny patio.
It gives you a relaxed informal vibe with its refreshing ambiance. Despite being a full house at lunch hour, the customer service is excellent. You do not feel ignored or sidelined.
On this day, we had Chef Jared Muyale to take us through the day’s menu and he was kind to give us a rundown of what we were to partake; preparations, ingredients and all. For starters we had the Red Lentil soup, which I must say ticks all the boxes. It is full of flavour and it is very delicious.
Jared explained that it requires a few staple ingredients, no fancy cooking methods and it delivers a meal that you’ll want to eat over and over again. Paired with bread, the soup could actually be a meal on its own. I love lentils and when it meets with coconut, it’s heavenly.
We gave ourselves a space of 20 minutes before we could have our main dish. So after we had braved our stomachs to cooperate, we dug right in. Our main dish was Kuku wa kupaka and just in case you have no idea what exactly this dish entails, let me break it down.
The main ingredient is chicken, with different spices but what changes the general look is the curry powder making it. Jared explained that you mix the spice pastes then fry it in a generous amount of butter to get its fragrance before putting in the meat. After that, it is seasoned with pepper and served with rice.
The chicken was so tender and tasty you could feel the full ingredients in every bite. It had a creamy taste, especially because of the butter. For dessert, we had the Swahili rice pudding. It consisted of coconut milk and spiced syrup topped up with a chocolate chip.
My general view of the dessert was that it was not quite as tasty as it looked, I assume because of the rice. What made it bearable in the mouth was the syrup and the chocolate. Imagine baby food with grown up flavour; it can be sweet, but a pleasant soothing sweet in that the taste is earned.
I came to learn that its an old-fashioned dessert but has come to change over time. We washed it down with tall, cold glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice. Looks can be deceiving when it comes to portion serving in hotels, especially since they look a bit average.
But after such a heavy meal, you would probably want to sit around the pool area and unwind with a glass of wine. Unfortunately we had to go back to the office on full stomachs. I was quite sleepy that afternoon, and the hot weather did not help.