You either roast, fry or boil them. But mice or rats are still a peculiar delicacy among some tribes in the Mijikenda community.
The delicacy, commonly known as kadzora, continues to gain prominence in the Coast region, with tourists warming up to the food.
Fred Katana, a farmer who hawks roasted rats, knows too well how the delicacy is loved by not only the Giriama, Kauma and Chonyi community in Malindi town, but also visitors thronging the tourism hub.
Mr Katana, 42, ekes out a living by hawking roasted rats in Malindi.
“For decades, kadzora dominated our tables. It was once a highly treasured delicacy among the Mijikenda community but modernisation destroyed our culture. We are happy that it is now making its way back into the towns loved by both local and international tourists,” he said.
Mr Katana and his brother said they usually carry roasted rats in a bucket and sell them in the streets of Malindi, in people’s homes and mnazi (coconut) drinking dens, known as ‘mangweni’.
“Each skewer has four roasted rats and goes for Sh50,” he said, adding, “In a day we sell about 60 to 70 roasted rats, which earn us about Sh750 to Sh800.”
Katana clarified that kadzora are different from the house rats, which are inedible.
But catching the rodents is an uphill task.
“We use local traps and food to trap them. Preparing them does not need slaughtering and skinning. We remove the intestines before the rat is roasted whole. A rat’s skin is peeled off during roasting,” he said, adding that the intestines too are edible.
“The best time to get the best rats is during the harvest season. A trap can catch either one or up to five Kadzora at a time,” Mr Katana said.
When the Nation visited one of the mnazi dens at Cossovo in Malindi, locals were busy drinking palm wine, also known as ‘Kilalo’ as they feasted on roasted Kadzora.
Mr Elvis Thoya, a resident, said he has been enjoying the food since his childhood and cited benefits such as improving sex life.
A medic, Dr Lewis Tinga, said kadzora is a delicacy among coastal communities, but warned that house rats are unhealthy.
Ms Martina Adega, a nutritionist, said the delicacy is healthy.
“They have proteins. We also have people eating frogs and it is healthy. Those found at home are not edible as they feed on sewerage and dirt. Eating kadzora is a cultural thing that should be revived,” Ms Adega said.
When asked whether he can trap rats in the house and eat them, Mr Thoya refuted saying kadzora is a special rat only found in the forest.
“Kadzora is a rodent, a unique breed from the rats but they are different from those found at home. There is no known harm known in eating them, for ages people have been eating kadzora. Those found at home are vectors, they carry a lot of viruses that are dangerous to the body,” Dr Tinga said.
“As a Giriama I have eaten kadzora. But the trend is diminishing. People should be careful and sell the right kadzora, those found in the wilderness and live in holes that must be dug are the best and healthy,” the medic said.