Kenya’s answer to BBQ
A Jiko, onions sizzling with golden cumin seeds filing the air with a burst of fragrance ready to welcome a batch of chicken or juicy paneer to slowly cook to perfection over a period of a few hours. Enjoyed over an entire evening sometimes deep into the night in a nice outdoor setting. That best visualizes a Koroga. Casual cooking outside with the family or your friends, at home, or while you are out on a camping trip; in Kenya we will always find an occasion to Koroga.
Koroga is typical Kenyan outdoor dining experience initiated and made popular by the Indian community and has been around for decades. My husband’s family has been enjoying Korogas for the entire time they have lived in Kenya which is over 40 years. Historically it has been mostly men getting together for a Korogo, drink a few (or little more) while watching a sports match. Some venues for that reason have TV’s in every banda to keep a sports match in the background during cooking. It is changing though and it now is more or less a dining experience for everyone.
How ever closely linked to the Indian cuisine Korogo is a Kiswahili word and means stirring. Maybe you had the same thought I did when I heard this first. It’s a little bit of a random name for such a colorful tradition. Could have thought of a range of different names that grasps the concept a little wider but hey, nobody asked me.
Of course cooking food on a the little charcoal fueled stoves Jiko is the most common way in Kenya to cook a delicious meal, roast sweet potatoes and BBQ but Koroga has developed the concept a step further with restaurants entirely based around the theme. The restaurant gets you all the ingredients to cook your dinner in a banda (private space or hut) which fits numbers from 10 to 20. A nice place for Koroga is Mystique Gardens in Westlands. It has a great menu as well in case you’re the only vegetarian in the group.
At home we love to celebrate any event with a Koroga. We have a nice outdoor covered space that we made into our designated Korogo space. Two Jikos to make two curries, one vegetarian with Paneer and one chicken dish, a stack of roti or a few loaves of bread and we’re good to go. You will find that you have quite a bit of chefs and everyone gets involved in checking on how much of what should be put when. It’s the best way to spend an evening.
No camping trip will be without bringing a Jiko and all the ingredients for a Koroga. Above you can see an impromptu Koroga. This is also a bit of a funny story. We had planned a trip to the Aberdare and stayed for the night at Fishing Lodge and a night camping at Carnelleys camp in Naivasha. Half way we decided to have the remaining curry from last nights Korogo only to find out that we didn’t bring any cutlery at all. Finding ourselves far from any stores we were a bit in a bind. Luckily we had some bell peppers that I was able to neatly cut into spoons 🙂
For your home based Koroga you really don’t need anything else than a Jiko and a Sufuria and Indian spices. Chicken curry is the main choice but many try and make other tasty varieties. One of our friends specializes in a Korogo Keema to die for. (So I hear. I’m vegetarian so I had to pass on the pleasure.) My husband makes a rather excellent Paneer Burji Koroga style for the vegetarians. The most creative Korogo dish in my circle was a Thai inspired curry with squid.
Look up some great recipes to cook for your Koroga. Get inspiration from the ton of Indian cooking websites and blogs. You might want to have these ingredients on hand which always return in every dish: chopped tomatoes, lots of onions, cumin seeds, green chilies, ginger and garlic paste, ghee and oil which are your basics.
Do you Korogo? Share your story on the best recipes, tips and tricks of the pros, best places. Would love to hear it.