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THE DISH: Masala nostalgia

Friday November 22 2019

A photo of chips masala and sautéed sukuma wiki. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA

A photo of chips masala and sautéed sukuma wiki. PHOTO | ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

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This is going to be a quick one.

When I was younger, a really good friend of mine and I would take tours of this city, looking for the places with the bombast masala chips in all the land (yes, this is going to be a nostalgia post).

This friend of mine and I, we would usually talk a lot right around the time when the hunt was beginning – outside of that, not so much.

But if there is one thing foodies know, it is that food very easily bonds two people together. Relationships of all kinds are built on less, and as George Bernard Shaw said, there is no sincerer love than the love of food.

Anyway. This friend of mine passed away a few years ago, and of course it was terrible. It was terrible for multiple reasons – 1, someone had died. Someone greatly loved in his community, his church, by his family and far flung multifaceted friends.

It was a great loss. 2, he was far, far too young to die – but I suppose we say that about everyone. And, much lower on the scale of importance, we hadn’t gone on the hunt in a while – which brings me to the point of this post – we had never found the perfect plate of masala fries!


There was this place in Westie that used to have such good ones. It started with an s and I cannot for the life of me remember what it is called now. It was those sides of The Mall.

Another s joint was Sherlock’s Den, which is now Avanti. Avanti isn’t half bad, it just tends to have the misfortune of continually being closed down because it has thrown its lot in with a much leaner supermarket chain.

But back when it was Sherlock’s, when it was the place that university students used to go to to get hot and heavy in dark places in malls, they had really good masala chips. Still not the best ever, though.


What makes a good plate of masala chips? Is it the establishment? The service? Solely, the taste and authenticity? The waitress smiling at you as she puts them down? In my opinion. A touch of spice. A lot, if you’re so inclined. A thick, tasty tomatoey sauce, made from scratch. Healthy sized chips – soft, not too crunchy, but just enough crunch - chips and good portioning.

I’m still on the search but the other day, another friend took me somewhere to have a cheap lunch (times are hard economically for us all!) and we ended up at Ashaki, which is off Ngong Road and very popular with the working crowd of that area, and anyone else that loves straightforward home cooked meals. Chips were 250 and masala chips were 300, so I decided to break the bank (ha!) and get those.

The service there is pretty surly, so I guarantee that you’re not going for the service, or the ambience, which is classic ‘local chic’, with the flies accompanying the (tasty) meat to boot. Don’t forget to ask for a candle from your probably sulky waitress to chase those guys away.


The masala fries themselves were pretty good. Hot, fresh and ready, and spicy enough to stir something in your stomach but not enough to try and kill you like Nigerian pepe soup. And one of the best things that I noticed for when you’re working off of a budget and your friend is eyeing you badly for eyeing sausages – the portions are big. Not big enough to make you sleep when you’re going back to work, but big enough. I would actually go back for these, unlike a few platters I’ve had in the past. And so, the search continues. RIP, Ombaye.


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