Mombasa Street Food is a mixture of local Native delicacies with a distinctive spicy nature borrowed heavily from Arabian and Indian Influence.
Mombasa is a mixture of so many different cultures. It’s a blend of the Portuguese, Arabian, Indian, British and even the local/native Swahili cultures.
Street Food is the go-to food because of its comparatively cheap prices and accessibility. Mombasa Street Food is mostly ready-to-eat food or drink. Its sold on the streets in temporary food booths / makeshift hotels, or public areas such as a market. Most Street Food is found in the OLD Town Mombasa and its outskirts.
The food sold is fresh as it is meant for immediate consumption. Best eaten when hot, as the hawkers or vendors are preparing their meals on hot jikos (stoves).
What Choices Do You Have For Mombasa Street Food?
We have done a food itinerary for one whole day, but to fully experience Mombasa Street Food we strongly advise an itinerary of at least two days (if possible).
Even though you can get early Breakfast Street Food, the best time to sample different local delicacies is during the evening.
There is a famous Mombasa quote that says, “Mombasa is small during the day, but very Big / vibrant in the evening”.
Depending on your schedule and arrival / departure time, you can experience 5 different menus in a day:
- 1) Breakfast
- 2) Brunch
- 3) Lunch
- 4) Evening Snack
- 5) Dinner
1)BREAKFAST in Mombasa
As most of the places that sell street food are makeshift hotels, they tend to be time conscious.
The cooks open as early as 5am, and close by 8am to allow other businesses to operate during the day.
This is a very common practice in African and some Asian countries.
For Breakfast, you can try out Mandazi (deep-fried pouch-like bread, made of self-raising flour and no yeast),Viazi Karai (deep-fried potatoes dipped in Gram Flour mixture and turmeric, sprinkled with coriander) and Chapati (soft unleavened flat and round bread) among Others.
Street food can also be found in permanent hotel stores.
You can check out Mr Mike’s Cafe. This is a tiny cafe in Ganjoni, that is known for a special kind of Mombasa Mix (the main ingredients being coconut gravy, chickpeas, bhajias, chutney and chevda).
The cost per plate is approximately 50 Kenya Shillings (0.5 dollars) to 100 Kenya Shillings (1 dollar), prices differing from one place to the other.
2) BRUNCH in Mombasa
You cannot talk about Mombasa Street Food without first paying a visit to the Spice and Fruit Market.
That is the Mombasa Market.
It stretches along the Nehru and Langoni Roads, west of the OLD Town Mombasa.
It is such a vibrant market with lots of activity from both buyers and sellers.
There is a very strong and rich mixture of scents from the colourful spices found in the market. Spices like cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, curry powders, paprika, cumin, ginger, masala and many more.
Most of the stalls sell delicious street snacks from as low as 20 Kenya Shillings (0.2 dollars) to as high as 100 Kenya Shillings (1 dollar), for each packet.
For Brunch, you can try out:
– Mabuyu (Swahili word describing a type of candy made from the seeds of the Baobab tree fruit)
– Groundnuts (‘njugu’ in Swahili)
– Dates (‘tende’ in Swahili)
– Achari (fermented and dried mango strips mixed with flavours)
– Mkwaju (from the Tamarind plant)
– Chevda (a mixture of spicy dried ingredients such as peanuts, corn, fried lentils)
– Nazi (Coconut)
3) Lunch in Mombasa
If you find yourself on the streets of Mombasa during Lunch, you can check out Sinia BBQ (Barbecue).
It’s an awesome place located in Tom Mboya Street, near Mama Ngina Waterfront.
For Lunch, Sinia BBQ is well known for:
– Mishkaki (Spicy and succulent skewered cubes of beef, that are slowly grilled over hot charcoal)
Your budget should be at least 300 Kenya Shillings (3 dollars). This will cater for a plate of Chips, one piece of Chicken Tikka, and one Mushkaki (inclusive of salad).
4) Evening Snack in Mombasa
It is best to take your evening snack just when you begin seeing the light of the day starting to fade out.
Mama Ngina is the place to get all your evening Street Snacks.
It usually comes to life from 5:30pm.
It is a free public joint where you can go and just chill, or watch the sunset.
Mama Ngina Drive offers you a fantastic view of the Indian Ocean.
Some people go to watch ships as they dock at the Kilindini Harbour, or to participate in small fishing activities.
Some also go with their families for entertainment such as camel and horse riding.
Another advantage of Mama Ngina Drive is its proximity to a well-visited, monumental and historical site – the FortJesus.
You can take a trip to Fort Jesus before your evening snack, where you can learn about Mombasa history and its link to the Portuguese.
As you sit and chill, you can try out snacks like:
– Muhogo crisps (freshly made cassava crisps)
– Potato Chips
– Madafu (hydrating and delicious coconut water from an unripe coconut)
– Grilled Sweet Potato (‘viazi tamu’ in Swahili)
At a small cost, you can rent a chair and have your snacks brought to you. Or if you have a car, you can relax and take your snacks in the comfort of your car.
The snacks may cost you as from 50 Kenya Shillings (0.5 dollars) to 100 Kenya Shillings (1 dollar).
Last but not least is setting time for dinner, just before the day ends.
Some of the morning makeshift hotels reopen in the evening, or if not till the next day.
One of the places you want to be. It is a whole street full of different food vendors. Here, you can sample as much Mombasa Street Food, in one location.
It is a notable BBQ (barbecue) joint.
If you have watched any of the Travel Food vloggers and bloggers, this is usually the street they make a beeline for.
(ii) Damascus Shawarma
Known for its Shawarma (Arab dish consisting of thin slices of meat, served in a flatbread).
It is made with lamb, mutton or chicken meat, which is first seasoned with spices, chili and onions before being roasted slowly on a spit.
Shawarma is one of the world’s most popular Street Foods.
Your dinner should cost you from 100 Kenya Shillings (1 dollar) to 300 Kenya Shillings (3 dollars).
(iii) Abbasi Darbar Cafe
A nice joint in the Mombasa Street Food scene to get your Egg Chapati (chapati stuffed with eggs, onions, coriander and chopped chilis).
General Guide Tips in the Mombasa Old Town:
This just general tips at your tour Mombasa.
Where Can You Get Accommodation In Mombasa?
You can choose to stay in the OLD Town Mombasa hotels.
You can seek accommodation in the outskirts of Mombasa for example, Nyali. The drive may take 15 minutes.
You can also cross the Indian Ocean with a ferry to experience the South Coast hotels (in places such as Diani Beach, Tiwi and Ukunda). Each drive to and fro may take you 1.5 hours.
Side Note: Accommodations are well accessible as per your budget choice: Economy level, Comfort level or Luxury level.
Is it Safe To Go To OLD Town Mombasa?
Yes… Mombasa is generally safe.
However, if it is your first time trying to locate every one of these places, we advise you to rely on the help of a Local Guide.
A Guide will help you learn more about the history of monumental sites in Mombasa, in addition to showing you more places to visit at local rates.
How to get to Mombasa?
There are various means of transport to help you reach Mombasa, including:
By plane from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Mombasa’s Moi International Airport, for approximately one hour.
By SGR train (Standard Gauge Railway) from Nairobi to Mombasa, for approximately 6 hours.
A one-way First Class train ticket will averagely cost you 3,000 Kenya Shillings (30 dollars), or 1,000 Kenya Shillings (10 dollars) for a Second Class ticket.
By bus from Nairobi to Mombasa, for approximately 8 hours.
A one-way bus ticket will averagely cost you 2,500 Kenya Shillings (25 dollars).
What Kind Of Transport Is Available Within Mombasa?
When you alight from the train station, bus station, or airport, you can take an uber / taxi to your Mombasa hotel.
However, the most convenient way to go around OLD Town Mombasa is by using a TukTuk.
What Are The Weather Conditions in Mombasa?
Generally, Kenya does not experience real winters and summers because of its proximity to the Equator.
Mombasa, being a Coastal area, tends to be quite Humid. In very few months does it get cold and rainy.
Because of this try wearing loosely fitting clothes, that will help to keep you cool as you walk through the market. Wearing open shoes / sandals would also be your best option.
How To Make Payments In Mombasa?
You can pay via Cash or Mpesa (Kenya’s mobile money transfer service).
It is advisable to carry loose change for example, 50 Kenya Shilling notes (0.5 dollars) & 100 Kenya Shilling notes (1 dollar).
This will help in giving tips and paying for transport by TukTuk.
Is Mombasa Street Food Safe?
Yes… But if you have a sensitive stomach it is recommended that you be picky about your food choices.
Advice from your doctor before you begin your travel would be best, to know what spices, food, or fruits to avoid.
Written by Gideon M. Edited by Carol M. in Kenya