Spaghetti bolognese, swahili style
One thing I absolutely love about the Coast are the aunthentic swahili dishes. Mombasa, especially, is literally paradise in Kenya when it comes to food. This statement can never be argued otherwise. The meaty dishes, the vegan coconut dishes, the sauces, mahamris and the signature tamarind juices, you name it!
I recently bumped into a treasure trove, El Casa Ensuits on Links Road, Nyali, Mombasa county, which has turned into a favourite.
The eatery was introduced to me by a friend, who also had learnt about it from a friend who had been to the place and could not stop talking about the delicious meals she had sampled at the restaurant.
From the horse’s mouth, we decided to go. She hadn’t been there so as usual, we got a little lost, but after asking around we got there just in time for lunch.
We realise that the place is actually a fully fledged hotel that offers both accommodation and restaurant services, which is open to both in-house and walk-in guests.
We are welcomed by a super friendly staff at the frontdesk, who ushers us to the restaurant area. I had hoped for some mbaazi and mahamri , because I had really missed them, unfortunately, I was informed that it was in the breakfast menu and so I had to make a second choice. I requested the chef to make me the day’s special, which apparently turned out to be his signature dish, sandato.
As the chief chef, Leonard Gogo, broke it down for us, a sandato is the local name for spaghetti bolognese, a traditional Italian recipe, which collaborates spaghetti with a tomato-based meat sauce Italian herbs, but this time, cooked with lots of Swahili spices to make it a Swahili dish. He assures us that the chicken Sandato at El Casa restaurant is a real throwdown!
“This meal does not need a lot of time to prepare, and it’s one of the favourites that people request for here,” shares the chef.
“Well is it very spicy?” I ask… because well…I love my food spicy, the Swahili way, not the Indian hot way.
I am a learner. Always trying to steal recipes from this chef and another. Just like that, he asked whether we would like to join him as he prepared the meal, and, learn some tricks.
The dish is a mix of spicy chicken stew and spaghetti. The cooking begins with the chicken being deep fried and set aside. The sauce is then fried in a separate pan, starting with onions, followed by tomato plums, ginger and garlic paste, tomato paste, carrots and peas.
Moses says this would be the end of it, if it were spaghetti bolognese, but for the sandato, this is the part where the Swahili spices make an official entry that changes the taste, and the name! The spices added, include garam masala, paprika, pilau spices, curry powder, chili.
Tomato paste is then put in to saturate the colour nicely, and a bit of fresh milk (a quarter of a cup) added to thicken the stew. Then the deep fried chicken is put into the sauce.
The spaghetti is prepared by boiling and the excess water sieved out. It is then rinsed in cold water to stop the cooking process and get rid of the starchy coating on the pasta that makes it clump together and gummy. It is then fried and poured into the stew.
Valentine’s Day plan
I have to say, this restaurant will make your pasta experience unforgettable. The meal served was enough for three people and thank God our appetite was voracious. The price was equally reasonable, going for Sh900 for three people, including fresh cold juices.
Basically, with Sh2000 , you can comfortably treat up to six people, going by the menu rates. The menu is richly Swahili too. You will also get all the other regular foods on the menu so everything is always available for your order.
Located behind Premier Hospital, the hotel besides offering a pocket-friendly menu, their accommodation rates go for as low as Sh5,000 for ensuite rooms with double beds and fully equipped kitchens.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you might want to consider an evening date here. The manager, intimated there will be a surprise menu and offer; I might just find myself back there.