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THE DISH: On the hunt for great Chinese food

Saturday February 16 2019

After deciding on Chinese food and selecting a few meals, the site said that they did not deliver to my area.

After deciding on Chinese food and selecting a few meals, the site said that they did not deliver to my area. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH 

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So it was a dark and stormy night in Nairobi – or at least I wish it was because Nairobi is just way too hot, am I right?

I don't know what the weather is on lately, but the mosquitoes have been coming out in far too large a number for this heat to be fair. We are their dish.

I digress. Sometime this week, I decided to try and use a delivery service to bring food to the house. You know those nights. You don't feel like cooking. You don't feel like leaving. You don't feel like convincing someone else to do it…

So I got on Jumia Foods to try and find someone who could do the necessary for me. After deciding on Chinese food and selecting a few meals, the site said that they did not deliver to my area. Of course I was annoyed, because I had already gone through the whole menu and made vital decisions concerning what I wanted to eat. But here we were.

I called up the restaurant in the hope that they had their own rider. They said they didn't but if I ordered, I could come and get the food myself in 25 minutes. Begrudgingly, I accepted the compromise that I might have to get out of the house and sit in traffic, which, I guessed, was still better than having to cook myself. I got out of the house – and smack into traffic, which meant it took me an hour to get to the restaurant.

The restaurant was Mister Wok, at Capital Centre.

When I walked in, they were quite full. It was a busy night and I couldn't see a free table. Luckily, my delivery was ready. The man at the front desk was harried, but nice – he had a lot of bills to handle, and though he was rushed, he was still pleasant and professional. I paid my bill, checked that the food resembled what I thought it was and went home.


When I finally got home, now actively hungry, I unpacked the food. The first thing that perturbed me was the size of the food.

If you've ever eaten at another Chinese restaurant, For You, for example, the portions that they present to you are quite large – large enough to fit into the mid-sized plastic containers that they give you when you are taking away the food.

These containers were the smallest version of the white plastic ones, and each one cost from Sh700-Sh800. I didn't think that was worth the money, but I was waiting to see if it was worth the cost.

It wasn't. We had ordered five dishes – the lemon chicken, chicken with cashew nut, chicken fried rice (ok, clearly we like chicken), beef with broccoli and a veggie combination that was meant to balance all of the meat because the older you get the slower those things digest and I am terrible at exercise...Just because black doesn't crack, doesn't mean you should encourage it to, I don't know, stretch irrevocably?

Anyway. The lemon chicken was deeply disappointing. It was like someone had slapped lemon onto chicken and not bothered to cook it – it was coagulated in a really unappetising way. The chicken fried rice was passable, but again, not worth the cost. The beef with broccoli was way too salty, and the chicken with cashew nut had like two cashew nuts. The vegetables were slathered in a soy based gravy that made them too soft to enjoy, almost as if they were deliberately trying to hide their flavour.

And I understand this – the things that are bad for you rarely taste good, and so it makes sense to try and kind of hide what they actually taste like.

Are there people who actually like the taste of beetroot, or cauliflower? One has to retrain their brain to do so, so I suppose in the meantime one can hide it in the waters of gravy.

I don't know if Mister Wok would be different if I was sitting down at the packed tables to have a meal – it's been years since I actually dined there – but I do know that I am now on a hunt for great Chinese. Any suggestions?


Wondering where to get the 411 on what's happening in and around 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.