I have been on a ROLL with #TreatYoselfTuesday! This past Tuesday, I visited City Park Market for the first time with my new photographer, Jacquie Mwai. If you don’t know Jacquie, you should. She’s a down to earth, easy to get along with woman who’s passionate about photography, particularly food photography. She’s a perfect fit for our new found collaboration! You can view her work by following her on Instagram, or check out her Facebook page. Jacquie and I met about a month ago and immediately hit it off, so keep an eye out for our #FoodPorn collabs!
As I was saying, last Tuesday Jacquie and I decided to check out City Park Market in Parklands. City Park Market is a beautiful outdoor Nairobi market where you can find just about every local fruit and vegetable imaginable. There were throngs of people weaving in and out of stalls and dodging cars on Tuesday morning as they tried to squeeze their way through the narrow paths. According to Jacquie, City Park Market has changed quite a bit in recent years. Cars previously weren’t allowed to drive through the market and to be quite frank, you’d have to be an incredibly skilled driver to maneuver the bustling people and close-quarter stalls.
We started our stroll through the market a little pre-cautiously, sidling up to vendors, explaining what we were doing and asking if they were alright with us photographing our experience. Everyone we encountered was extremely cooperative and accommodating. Being the chili lover I am, I was immediately drawn to an elderly woman’s colourful stall with an array of veggies and a big section of her stall dedicated to chilis.
You can tell the strength of the chili’s heat by smelling it, so I quickly picked up the bright red chili and gave it a good whiff…. It was strong.
After the first interaction with the elderly woman, I was excited to explore more of the market. It’s almost overwhelming to see the abundance of beautiful fresh produce that the City Park Market offers. It’s like going to a supermarket when you’re hungry — you want to buy EVERYTHING.
I was immediately drawn to a vendor who had two of the ripest, freshest, pineapples I have ever seen. The pineapples were so ripe that the exterior wasn’t even yellow, it was a deep sunset orange.
I had to buy it. For the price of ksh 150, I was in possession of the sweetest pineapple I have ever encountered which was so photogenic that I had to take a #glamshot of it chillin’ by the pool.
As we continued our walk through the market, we were unintentionally drawing attention to ourselves as we paused at stalls, talked to vendors, and posed for photos of produce and our experience. “Madam, madam! Come take photos here!” we saw a young man smiling and waving us over. Encouraged by his enthusiasm, we headed over to his stall.
David was a charming young man with great sales technique. As we got to his stall he already had a knife in one hand and a fruit I didn’t recognize in the other. Before we could say anything, he was cutting into the soft exterior to offer us a taste. The fruit looked like an under ripe guava but I was willing to give it a try.
I asked him what the name of the fruit was to which he responded “White Superior”. White Superior? That couldn’t be right. I looked at him to see if he was joking but the grin on his face didn’t give him away.
As I tasted the fruit, it tasted just like a custard apple minus the seeds on the inside and the texture of the White Superior. The White Superior had a firmer consistency than a custard apple. It was like biting into a soft pear that has the flavour profile of a mango mixed with an apple. It’s delicious. For reference, below is a photo of a custard apple.
Before we knew it, David was slicing into the next fruit for us to try.
A ripened orange.
Tasting the orange reminded me of the fresh juices my mother used to make for my family when I was growing up. David offered me 2 kgs of oranges (about 12 pieces) for ksh 200. I couldn’t pass up that offer.
Here’s to hoping I can make orange juice as great-tasting as my mothers. With the quality of orange (and the simplicity of making orange juice), it shouldn’t be too difficult to replicate.
Jacquie and I spent quite some time with David discussing his produce-selling business and the clientele he usually attracts at City Park Market. After our chat with David, it was time for lunch. We headed to UK Masters directly behind David’s stall where we met Mwalimu (Swahili for teacher) otherwise known as Odijo.
Mwalimu was hard at work chomaing nyama for his hungry customers but was happy to put aside some time for us and gave me a quick lesson at his grill.
Mwalimu (as the name suggests) is a great teacher and extremely charismatic. He told us a little about his background and his idea behind UK Masters. UK Masters actually stands for Ukamabani Masters and is open from Monday through Saturday at City Park Market. Mwalimu studied catering at Utalii College and he uses the skills and knowledge gained to run his restaurant business. His location at City Park Market attracts both market goers and regulars working in nearby offices.
He began to prepare our lunch, calling out our order to his staff who composed the other components of our dish. Jacquie ordered ugali, sukuma, kachumbari and meat; I ordered the same thing but with chapati instead of ugali. If there is ever an opportunity for me to choose between any starch and a chapati, chapati will always win. What is life if not the quest for chapati?
I washed my hands in preparation for the meal and sat back and observed the hustle and bustle of UK Master’s kitchen.
As I sat waiting for my food, a woman approached and offered me a glass of fresh juice with my meal which I happily accepted. She had the options of orange, mango, beetroot, or a blend of mango and beetroot. Naturally, I ordered the mango/beetroot blend. You really can’t go wrong with fresh juice, especially at City Park Market where the fruits are so ripe, there’s no need for added artificial sugar.
When the meal was ready, I was so hungry I barely let Jacquie take photos. But seeing them now, I’m glad I waited so I could share them with you!
Once the photos were snapped, I tucked into my meal.
The goat was roasted well, retaining it’s soft juiciness and not overcooked to a tough grey mass. The chapati tasted like a french toast chapati, as if the flour mixture had contained eggs. The chapati was a heavier consistency than I’m accustomed to but I was hungry and it’s density filled me up. The sukuma was lightly seasoned with salt which was a nice addition to an otherwise greasy/heavy plate of food. The best component of the dish was definitely the kachumbari; it had lemon, slat, cilantro, and some fresh green chili chopped into it. Yum.
As we got to the end of our meals and the food coma began to settle in, we wrapped up our leftovers to go, said goodbye to Mwalimu, and began to head out of the market. On our way out, we came across a wall of watermelons. It was amazing, I’ve never seen so many watermelons in one place! We asked the stall keeper if we could take some photos, and just like all the other people we encountered, he encouraged us to capture the moment.
After Jacque got a few photos in, the stall keeper told me to go ahead and sit on the watermelon. I’m not sure if I’ve ever sat on a watermelon but if I have, I was probably 20 years younger and 50 kgs lighter. I tentatively sat on the largest, most sturdy-looking watermelon in the pack.
When the watermelon didn’t crush under my weight and Jacquie had a good time laughing and taking photos, she asked me to lie back…. So here’s a shot of me trying to look casual as I lean on a pile of watermelons, enjoy.
If you haven’t been to City Park Market, you must go. Even if you don’t have any shopping to do take a walk around, interact with people, smell some fruits and veggies, revel in the beauty of the fresh produce Kenya has to offer. You’re not going to regret it and you’ll definitely get a few smiles, if not laughs, out of your adventure.