Ravinder Bhogal’s Nostalgic Nairobi

Ravinder Bhogal’s Marylebone restaurant, Jikoni, is a celebration of proudly inauthentic recipes from an immigrant kitchen. Born in Kenya to Indian parents, she moved to London when she was seven and all parts of her diverse background inform her brilliantly eclectic approach to cooking. We asked her where she eats in Nairobi when she wants to be transported back to the city of her childhood.

Kuku paka at someone’s house (or at Jikoni) 

Kuku paka is a hybrid dish: it’s sort of East African, Indian and Arabic. It’s basically a chicken curry made with ginger, garlic, chilli, aromatic spices and coconut milk, and it is the most comforting, delicious thing. Everyone has their own version of it as it’s a home dish and is rarely on restaurant menus. I think best to befriend someone and hope that they’ll make it for you. Or come to Jikoni and try ours. My memories of kuka paka are of it being cooked on a jiko, a traditional Kenyan outdoor stove. Cooking it over coal makes it naturally very smoky in flavour, which is why we smoke ours at Jikoni. 

Jikoni, 19-21 Blandford St, London; jikonilondon.com

Grilled goat kebabs with Kenyan chips at Nargis 

As a child, I used to drink fresh passion fruit juice at this charming family restaurant famous for its Kenyan goat kebabs. They’re called mushkaki – simple pieces of marinated goat cooked over coal but always so delicious and succulent. To go with them you have to order some of their chips. They’re made from Kenyan potatoes, which are as good as Cypriot potatoes, and go quite crisp when you fry them in garlic and then douse them in a mouth-numbing spice mix. 

Nargis, School Ln, Nairobi City

Gram flour-battered potatoes at Maru Bhajia  

My grandfather left India for Kenya in the 1940s, but my husband’s great, great, great grandfather arrived in Nairobi in something like 1814 and this long history means there’s a huge Indian community in Kenya. In Nairobi, the heart of the community is Diamond Plaza, which is almost like a Little India. Here, there are loads of great restaurants but my favourites are Chowpaty, where they do the best vegetarian Indian food including brilliant dosas and samosas. And round the corner there’s a place called Maru Bhajia, named after a guy called Maru who invented their signature dish: really thin slices of potato, dipped in spiced up gram flour batter and then deep fried. They come served with tomato chutney. If you’re not going to Nairobi any time soon, there’s a restaurant in Wembley run by an East African Indian family that’s also called Maru Bhajia, which is inspired by the one in Nairobi. 

Maru Bhajia , LRI 46 Fourth Parklands Avenue, Nairobi City

The chocolate dip cone at Sno Cream

My grandfather used to take me to this temple of 1950s Americana for sundae treats when I was about five years old. I remember driving there through the heat and the haze of Nairobi and it feeling so glamorous. I went back recently with my husband and it hasn’t changed a bit. The painted signs are still exactly the same. It’s like a time warp. I think they’ve probably got the same sundae glasses and cutlery. And the menu is the same: banana splits, raspberry sundaes. But the thing to have is the chocolate dip cone as I always did as a girl. 

Sno Cream, Monrovia St, Nairobi City

You can buy Ravinder’s Jikoni cookbook here and follow her on Instagram @cookinboots

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