Viazi Karai-The Street food king of Mombasa
Having grown up in the streets of Mombasa one can not help but notice the numerous ‘Viazi Karai’ stands as it is the street food King here. Each with a different MO to their cooking but all with the same goal of leaving you, the customer wanting more. In other parts of the country I hear many refer to them as ‘waru’ but they are not as finger-licking as the coastal ones. Maybe it’s because the chefs do not take their time and boil them before frying but I suspect it’s the famous coastal patience which is mostly confused as laziness that sets them apart.
On a typical afternoon Mama Saumu would have set up base ready for the evening’s festivities. School going children, working citizens, all and sundry patiently wait in line for their turn to get Mama Saumu’s delicious ‘Viazi Karai’ after a long day of all the hustle and bustle of the town. On almost all occasions demand exceeds supply but somehow the ‘ Mama wa Viazi'(as they are popularly referred to) always finds a way to make it work just like all our mothers back home. Happy Mother’s Day.
The viazi is usually accompanied by ‘pilipili’, a thick red paste made of pepper. Paste that will for sure leave you running for a glass of water, sweating or teary. An experience worth it all. Those scared to dare the ‘pilipili’ gods settle for the less hot ‘ukwaju'(tamarind chutney) that adds a soup like experience to the dish. Some prefer the frozen version of the ukwaju that has some sugar sprinkled in it to turn it into a juice or even a bottle of soda to wash it all down.
Evenings in Mombasa are made happier, much worthy to look forward to, thanks to Mama Saumu and dozens like her who have chosen to fight off hunger on the streets. Through their inventions, communities thrive with a sense of togetherness as they have something in common to look forward to. Just like a ruler’s work is to bring their people together, down here in Mombasa, Viazi Karai remains the king of the streets.