When it comes to diversity my family certainly takes the cake! They married from everywhere but Mars…(Now what have I started! Some family members are now already searching the internet to see how they can marry from there!)! At home we have in-laws from everywhere in the country. We were also mostly urban raised and those who did not start out in Nairobi or Kisumu or Mombasa invariably ended up there or in even bigger metropolises like New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, London, Stockholm, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sydney, Kingston…! That diversity means we speak a hodgepodge of different languages and when we meet as a family, the same diversity by hook up and or travel is reflected in the food we cook to share.
Just recently, my much traveled and suave (He says he is a chip of the old block…good lookin n all!…hahaha!) gourmet eating nephew posted a picture on FB of a huge helping of biryani…or was it pilau that had been served him at a restaurant in Nairobi, where he regularly goes to quell the hungry spirits of his need for a spicy and curried inoculation! He went to school in India…The capital of all things spicy and hot…and good too! The comments that followed were testament to how good it looked on the plate and the promise of a palate tingling experience. I bet they used Simba Mbili or its relative…in there somewhere…! Ha!
Today my friend Alice posted a pic of her Kenyan home-made salsa / tomato sauce and followed it up with a recipe that had me drooling already at the prospect of what I could do with that kachumbari (salsa). Visions of roasting nyams…goat, ngombe (beef) and kuku (chicken) flashed thru my mind in quick succession and the drool…oops!…got some on the keyboard noooow! Hahaha!…Kleenex!
What caught my eye in her recipe however, was the specific reference to “a teaspoon of simba mbili curry powder…”. Now that just made me stop right there and say…This recipe must be goooood! Our mum was from slopes and I tell you there was no shortage of jokes in our house, by our dad…who was a great (Luhya) cook (there! now I’ve really done the profiling thing!)…about how seriously handicapped people from the slopes are when it comes to culinary diversity and the magic of cooking! Our dad said (bless his now resting little Kenyan “tribal” heart!), that slopes people (Wahome Mutahi said it…not me!) only knew “boiro”…of meat, waru, githeri, ngwashee and ndomaa and that the most adventurous they got with adding edge to their cooking was adding salt! Hahaha! We died at the joshing each other about that! I will leave dads story on how mum cooked her first kuku for another day…It merits its own space and time!
But our mama bust that myth thoroughly! She was the greatest cook ever! Her dad…our gramps was a “chef” to a colonial musu of them days and mum learnt direct from him how to make some really tantalizing msosi…some of which we did not care to know how to pronounce or why they were named so but were happy to nosh on! That aside, her chapos, rice, ugali, matoke and ingoko (of the earth scratching and worm eating variety from Kariokor!) was to die for. She also had the murenda and tsisaga cooking from luhyaland down pat! And the one ingredient she insisted on when cooking the mchuzi or stew…was the magical Simba Mbili curry powder…and salt of course!
So now we Luseno girls grow up and the tradition continued…It was Simba Mbili or bust! Our in-laws…especially those from the coast where they lay claim to the best cookery in the whole of East Africa (Ugandans might have something to say about that!)…have such a laugh when we compile a shopping list and Simba Mbili is high on the list! “Jameni…Kwani hio Simba Mbili isipokuwepo leo hatuliii? Hahaha…”…Then they would see the glint in our eye…murderous to say the least at their being dangerously close to committing high treason by laffing at the holy sprinkle of our cooking…and the lafta would peter out! Hahaha!
So much for a little family anecdote but seriously…I don’t know what brand of curry you use…or your mum…family…But that was our thing and when I found two friends who shared that same brand, I felt so vindicated and I almost want the ICC of food, if there is one, to institute a statute to get the whole world on board.! Hahaha…All the same…Here is my friends recipe as posted on FB and used by her kind permission…and following that the convo we had about that Simba Mbili brand”
Alice: 10-12 ripe tomatoes. 2 Spanish white or red onion. Fry onion gently in canola, or Elianto oil or better extra virgin olive oil till onion is pale but not burnt. Add teaspoon of Simba Mbili curry powder, stir. Add ground fresh garlic, 4. Add a table spoon of tomato paste, an Italian brand like Vega or SA All gold or Kenya Orchards will do too. Add your chopped fresh tomatoes tomatoes. Dried mix herbs. cook covered for 15mins till soft. Stir n Mash up with a potato masher to make it smooth. Put back on fire n add two fresh ground garlic, pinch of salt n Thai sweet chilli sauce to balance the tanginess. Simmer with lid open for five more mins till reduced n thickish. Cool n fill in glass jars rinsed in warm water with a drop of apple cider vinegar to preserve. Stays in the fridge for 7 days. Use to fry any food pronto. No chopping tomatoes all the time. Enjoy. And let me know how it went.
Me: I like this recipe Alice “Barefoot”! May I use it on my blog under the “It’s whats cooking” category where I also share my own recipes with attribution of course? I particularly love the “add teaspoon of simba mbili…” We the Luseno girls were brought up on simba mbili and woe-betide you if you brought another brand when mama sent you! Our inlaws can never understand why for all family get togethers to eat food list must have simba mbili…and also esp hubby when I ask specifically for that brand when he is ready to come back after a sojourn to the old country! Hahaha! Glad to know it counts for something in the food!
Lynn: Njeri Osaak There is something about the simba mbili brand I am equally specific about it – trust me it makes the difference
Me: True Lyn…A quick read of the ingredients used to make the brand on the can will give you an idea why it is the best and it leaves no bad after taste in the food. I think it is specific to the south of India Madrass…the mecca of curry powder as per a cooking channel program I watched. Apparently the inlaws have no problem cleaning their plates and asking for seconds when it comes to the mlo part! Hahaha!
Lynn: How so true no after taste what so ever I am just glad to note that I am not the only one who is brand specific
I think I should end this post with Alice “Barefoot’s” quip that accompanied a pic of the lovely Simba Mbili and whose initial post actually inspired this blog post…”Simba Mbili- The one and only genuine and original curry powder and truly Kenyan, generation after generation.”
So what is your “Simba Mbili” in generations of you family cooking that is still lazima (a must add-on)?
©NjeriOsaak is a trained Journalist, Public Relations Professional and a College Speech Communication Teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.