THE DISH: A taste of East Africa in Boston - Daily Nation

THE DISH: A taste of East Africa in Boston

Tuesday October 2 2018

The chapati, beans, sukuma and potato from Karibu restaurant in Boston, USA. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The chapati, beans, sukuma and potato from Karibu restaurant in Boston, USA. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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I am firmly convinced that you can find Kenyans anywhere on the planet. Alaska? I have a cousin. Cuba? Many medicine students. Ireland? An old classmate. Australia? In plenty, over at Wollongong.

We're everywhere. We're an adventurous people constantly looking for opportunity.

Let me put it this way – if we can get a visa there, we're going. If we can't get a visa there, we may just show up there eventually, generations later, because we can. For a visit. Or out of curiosity. And thankfully, we're beginning to show the same curiosity within, too.

Granted, there are only about 70 countries in the world that a Kenyan can travel visa free, and a few more than that where it's a bit more complicated. The only people, I think, who beat us in this we-are-everywhere regard are the Nigerians. Those ones are in the places where no one else is. My new Vietnamese friend was telling me about how they flourish over there. In Vietnam. Vietnam???

The interior of Karibu restaurant in Boston, USA. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The interior of Karibu restaurant in Boston, USA. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

KENYAN FOOD

I digress. So, now that we are everywhere, and because I am staying with Kenyans, it was easy to find a spot that has Kenyan food in Boston.

Oh, the delight. I think, dear reader, that you may not understand, and I must now give you context about why this chapati is so important to me.

You see, I have not had my mother's chapati in about nine weeks. It's a point of concern, and I am receiving consistent complaints now, from my stomach and my memories, after this visit.

Before this visit to this East African restaurant, everything was fine. After, I think there's now a bit of a hankering for something I haven't had in a while. Kwanza chapati with ndengu. Na kasukuma. We!

A fridge with samosas and other snacks at Karibu restaurant in Boston, USA. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

A fridge with samosas and other snacks at Karibu restaurant in Boston, USA. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

So anyway, back to the food at hand. There's a little simple spot in Waltham, which is a Boston suburb, and it is on 10 Crescent Street. It's called Karibu (of course!), and it offers what it calls 'A Taste of Africa'.

At this point, by the way, everything even remotely related to ugali looks good to me (refer to my precious article on how to throw a Mexican birthday party, with a focus on the tamales section).

We walk into the place and the aroma of African food hits me immediately and I start to remember what my mother's kitchen smells like on a Saturday afternoon.

The nostalgia – as much as you can garner in nine weeks – is real, and it is perfect.

The outside signage at Karibu restaurant in Boston, USA. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

The outside signage at Karibu restaurant in Boston, USA. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

IT WAS A WIN

Have you ever been incredibly happy to just be in a restaurant because, if what is coming looks like what it smells like then it is a win-win situation for everyone?

It was definitely a win-win. The chap behind the counter opened the chafing dishes and said 'Sasa?' and I was excited like I had forgotten how to speak Swahili before this moment.

It's a pretty simple arrangement, and looks much like a cleaner, smaller version of Kosewe's – plastic reed-bound chairs and tables with African art scattered on the walls, and a buffet-type service counter behind a glass screen for service.

A poster next to the cashier's till at Karibu restaurant in Boston, USA, advertising a Jose Chameleone concert. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

A poster next to the cashier's till at Karibu restaurant in Boston, USA, advertising a Jose Chameleone concert. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

They ladle the food into Styrofoam containers if you're taking it away, which we were. There was chapati (yes!), madondo (beans), nduma, sukuma wiki (with peas in it, I don't know if that's a Ugandan thing, because they do slant towards Ugandan food as well), matoke, potatoes...I could go on and on. And, obviously, ugali.

Just how Ugandan are these guys? There was a poster next to the cashier's till that was advertising a Jose Chameleone concert. It felt like home.

The chapati was worth the journey. I took a terrible picture because I was just so eager to eat the food when we got home. Moral of the story? Thank your mothers, and find the Kenyans. Karibu!

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Wondering where to get the 411 on what's happening in Nairobi's foodie scene? There's a lot of places you could go, but here's where we want you to be – getting the dish on the dish. Get it? We knew you would.