Nyama choma


‘Nyama choma’ is the Kiswahili phrase meaning roasted meat. ‘Nyama choma’ is prepared by roasting huge chunks of meat over an open charcoal fire. Typically, the chunks could consist of a whole leg, or the ribs making up one half of the chest. The Kenyan ‘nyama choma’ barbeque style does not require the meat to be marinated in any way.

Special stoves are available to make sure that the grill holding the meat can be raised or lowered depending on the conditions of the fire, and the temperatures needed to cook the meat. The ‘nyama choma’ challenge is that after the countless raising and the lowing of the grill, the meat should be well done- meaning, not overly oozy with juices and not too dry either. Special care should be taken to ensure that the charcoal does not flare up into flames and blacken the surface of the meat. As any ‘nyama choma’ lover will tell you, it is undesirable to eat under cooked goat meat just as it is to eat burnt cinder.

It requires some level of patience and endurance to keep flipping the meat from one side to the other to ensure even roasting, while standing next to the hot fire in an even hotter afternoon. With ‘nyama choma’ cooking being a man’s thing, the grilling is usually accompanied by a few beers, brouhaha borne of soccer rivalry, heated political arguments, and perhaps a few whackily unbelievable stories. Needless to say, the roasting skills are highly valued among the men – only the qualified need attempt.

Once ready, the meat has an attractive golden brown color and a smell that could easily attract hungry crows all the way from Nigeria, given the right wind conditions.

When each huge chunk of ‘nyama choma’ is ready, it is cut into small chewable pieces over a chopping board and passed around for everyone eagerly waiting to sample the delicious morsels. What is the conventional way of consuming nyama choma? A person picks a single piece from the chopping board, dips it in some salt before eating it. While juggling the hot piece in the mouth, the person watches the chopping board go to the next person…then the next…and then the next, hoping that there still will be more pieces of ‘nyama choma’ when the board comes round the next time. Fortunately, one does not have to wait too long before the next piece of ‘nyama choma’ is cooked, diced, and passed round.