“Hello bro,” I say into the phone as I take yet another left turn along the narrow maze-like streets of Shela Town. “Guess where I’m going to have dinner right now... I’m currently walking to Rangaleni!” I exclaim, at which we both burst out laughing.
The inside joke is that the last time we were in Lamu together, we were looking for a cheap place to have dinner one night and the search led us to Rangaleni. The next morning, however, while I was all good and dandy, my brother got a serious case of food poisoning and couldn’t eat all day, which was unfortunate because per his request, the chef at our hotel had made him a chocolate mud cake which so happens to be one of his favourites.
On this particular instance, after spending a couple of days lazing in Lamu, I was tired of eating seafood in fancy restaurants and wanted nothing more than a simple Kenyan meal. Chapati and beans happens to be one of my favourites, and when I remembered that I could find it at Rangaleni, I decided to head there. If I was lucky, perhaps there would even be mbaazi – pigeon peas cooked in coconut milk.
The place is basically a kibanda in a largely chic and upmarket town. It however doesn’t try to be fancy. The menu is listed on the wall with items like rice, githeri, beans, fish, ugali and more, and the kitchen is somewhere out back. You just bow your head and say your prayers hoping you will be okay afterwards.
I sat at an empty bench at the back of the room and ordered two chapatis and beans, which I was told would be Sh80. It was promptly served, piping hot, less than five minutes later. That’s what I call fast food. The chapatis were really tiny and almost see-through, much like those knitted vitambaa your grandmother probably had on her special chairs which were reserved for visitors. The sitting arrangement in the room was in two columns which for a moment made me think I was back in the remote boarding school I went to, particularly since the metallic plates looked similar. Needless to say, I almost had a panic attack before remembering that our school would have never served us chapatis.
For some reason, I started to sweat profusely while tucking into this delicious comfort food, as though I was working through a large mound of ugali.
Perhaps it was the coastal humidity? An elderly pot-bellied man who was shouting across the room to the waiter for his eighth chapati (like I said, those things were tiny) had taken his t-shirt off only up to his neck so it hang loosely like a scarf. As for me, let’s just say it’s been 24 hours since my meal there and I haven’t had any stomach upsets yet.