Kenya has several staple dishes and this, a simple delicious meal comprising of corn and beans, is one that is a favorite to many communities. Corn and Bean Medley is one of the dishes that you will find across the country among the various tribes, each tribe preparing it slightly different.
This meal has two basic ingredients that is readily available in all parts of Kenya. These two ingredients are maize (corn) and beans. Most people prefer to use the green maize however, because green maize is seasonal, dried maize (corn) is used regularly. Dried maize and beans take a long time to cook thus require several hours of boiling. Once cooked salt is added and voila! – our meal is ready. If green maize is used then the maize would have to be boiled separately as the green maize would cook faster than the beans.
In such a case, the beans and maize are mixed when the beans are almost done to complete the process.
Ideally the ratio of of maize to beans should be 1:2, you always want to have more beans than maize. This is a concept I learnt from my Grandmother, and to my knowledge is applied in a lot of our meals today. Starch, in this case maize, should be the smaller portion of our meals. I guess our ancestors knew this and practiced it.
Corn and Beans – An Everyday Complete Meal
Growing up, this dish was a regular meal several times a week. My secondary education was at a girls boarding school where our lunch comprised of Nyoyo almost on a daily basis. We even had a code name for it, we called it “Murram” I guess because it was brown in color, like murram, and made with dried maize which was hard. We had different ways of making this meal enjoyable, for example, we would add margarine to it while it is hot, mix it, gaving it a delicious buttery flavor.
To ensure the this meal was a balanced one it was always served to us with a vegetable. The vegetable of choice for our school in those days was cabbage. It turned out that we ate so much of it that the other schools nicknamed our school (Cabbs).
Sautéed cabbage is a great accompaniment for nyoyo, if well cooked. I still enjoy having nyoyo with sautéed cabbage today.
Nyoyo can also be eaten at any time of the day. In my young age, this served as a breakfast dish. Then it would usually be served with tea, thus substituting the regular bread. This was a meal that would keep us going for most of the day, even if we did not have lunch.
Corn and Beans – Kenyan Street Food
Nyoyo is also a street food in Kenya. Many of the food kiosks (stands) will have this on their menu. It is a meal that is filling and can keep you full for a long time.
The people who perform high intensity jobs also say that it is an energy giving meal and therefore they too enjoy it.
In the Western world this meal is a delicacy because it is not very easy to come across some of the basic ingredients.
Green maize( not sweet corn) is not easy to come by as most of the corn found in the west is sweet corn which is too soft. The green maize makes the nyoyo more sumptuous and enjoyable.
Different parts of Kenya, different tribes will have a different name for the nyoyo and will add different ingredients to customize it to their preference. Here are a few variations
Western Kenya – it is called Nyoyo. Many in this region will add groundnuts (peanuts) to it as peanuts are grown locally in that part of the country.
Central Kenya – It is called Githeri. In this region they will add potatoes and sometimes even cabbage or pumpkin leaves to it.
The modernized version of nyoyo includes onions and tomatoes sautéed in oil and added to the two basic grains of cooked maize and beans plus any other desired ingredients.
Below is a recipe of my favorite version of Nyoyo
NYOYO – CORN AND BEANS – SIMBA STYLE
Simba style includes peanuts and chick peas
- 1 heaped cup cooked green maize
- 1 cup cooked peanuts ( optional)
- 1 cup cooked red kidney beans
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas (optional)
- 1/2 of a large onion – diced
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 teaspoons crushed garlic
- 1/2 a bunch cilantro
- 1 teaspoon bouillon powder
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup water
- Put the oil and the onions in the pan, fry on medium heat till tender.
- Add garlic and stir, fry for about 3 minutes.
- Put in the diced tomatoes and salt, fry till tomatoes are tender.
- Stir bouillon powder, curry powder, paprika and stir.
- Add corn, stir, then add chickpeas, beans, peanuts and stir.
- Sprinkle cilantro and water, stir then cover, allow to cook for 10 minutes on low heat, serve.