By Manuel Ntoyai and Chebet Korir
Mutura is loved by thousands, perhaps millions of Kenyans.
Out of love for the savory taste, perhaps, because of its affordability, many are those who have to make the brief stopover at specific joints in the evening after their daily errands.
Also known as the ‘African sausage’, mutura is mostly a mix of animal internal organs encased in intestines.
The ordinary mutura is made with tripe, blood, offal (and sometimes mincemeat), while some people modernise the delicacy by adding flavours such as onions, tomatoes, chili, corianders and cabbage.
“My day starts at 4am when I leave the house to go to the slaughterhouse at Mwiki. I usually get there at 5am and buy the intestines at Sh150 per kilo and pass by the butchery on my way home to buy mincemeat,” John Mwangi alias Mwangi wa Mutura, who plies his trade in Zimmerman, Nairobi, tells People Daily.
On ordinary days, customers start flocking to his kiosk at 3pm.
And as school-going children arrive home, the traffic at his mutura base soars.
A piece goes for as little as Sh10 with some customers going for as much as Sh200.
Without minding the amount of labour that goes into preparing their favourite delicacy, they munch away happily.
“When I get home, I boil and then fry the mincemeat and stuff it into the already cleaned intestines. I leave the house by noon and head to my ‘office’ where I light a small fire, prepare the charcoal grill and start roasting the mutura. Some of my customers love it medium rare and others prefer it well done. I try and offer them what they like,” he says.
A majority of mutura lovers like to accompany it with kachumbari (tomato-onion relish), chilli and a new trend, shallow fried potatoes as a side dish.
Usually, the potatoes go for Sh20 and some internal meat pieces such as the heart, liver and pancreas might be added to the menu.
And while the end product is of prime importance, acquiring a strategic location is equally so.
“I was first introduced to this business by my uncle who ran a butchery in Umoja Innercore. He would sell soup and later mutura, which made him more money than the butchery itself. He employed me as his assistant because in the evening, the human traffic was higher and he needed an extra hand,” says Joseph Mwanzia, who sells mutura at Seasons area of Kasarani, Nairobi.
He adds: “After learning how to run the business, I used the Sh10,000 I had saved to start my own business. I opened my first joint at Pangani, but it failed to pick. A friend, however, told me about his neighbour in Kasarani who had a miraa kiosk just outside a newly opened club and was selling the spot for Sh5,000. I bought the place and my business has never been the same.”
A good base to operate from requires good human traffic, especially in the evening, when most of the working class is going home.
“It’s a fact that when most of you are going home from work are hungry and would like some quick bites. We know that and use the nice aroma of mutura to our advantage. If 100 people buy a Sh20 mutura each, it translates to Sh2,000 for me, and if they make it a habit, then you are sure of making good money every evening. Mutura is addictive,” says a beaming Mwanzia.
On weekdays, he makes between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000 and on weekends, he rakes in up to Sh4,000 in profit.
Demand for mutura rises during the weekend, as people patronise their favourite joints.
In fact, long gone are the days when mutura was associated with poverty. Upscale clubs and bars are now introducing mutura as part of their special menu on themed days.
Every Sunday at Jiweke Tavern on Ngong Road, for example, patrons get a chance to enjoy their mutura and kachumbari at affordable prices.
Comfy Inn, a restaurant and lounge on Thika Road, is known by many revellers (who include businessmen and politicians) for its ‘special’ mutura. They flock to the joint to just have a piece.
According to the joint’s manager Steve Mwangi, mutura is one of the most sold delicacies at the restaurant.
“Our mutura is just special. We open the back butchery at around 2pm and customers flock in as early as noon patiently waiting for the meat to roast. We also receive high-end guests who enjoy the mutura accompanied with a cup of hot soup,” he says.
As some high-end restaurants embrace mutura as part of their special menu, others are mixing it up with an exotic version boerewors, originating from south of the Ardour River in France.
This delicacy is a bit different from the normal mutura.
It is a combination of minced pork, lamb spices, coriander black pepper, nutmeg and cloves.
Sheila Kimani patrons Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi just for the boerewors.
She says it is healthier compared to the normal mutura sold in the streets.
“Although I buy it at a higher price compared to the ordinary mutura, I find it hygienic and more healthier, especially because of the ingredients used,” she says, adding that buying roadside food is not something in her wish list, as she considers such places as a haven of diseases.
A report published in 2018 by the University of Nairobi warned that more than half of cooked and uncooked mutura sold in Nairobi was highly infected with disease-causing germs.
“Our study shows roasted and non-roasted African sausages (mutura) sold by meat outlets in Nairobi county are contaminated with staphylococcus, bacillus, streptococcus, proteus, and E-coli organisms,” read the report.
The report further noted that some of the bacteria found in the delicacy were found to produce hazardous toxins that can cause illnesses in humans within three to four hours of ingestion.
Such contaminations are characterised by nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea as the major indications.
Despite it being prepared in unsanitary conditions, the researchers noted that mutura remained a much sought-after delicacy although it remained uncontrolled ready-to-eat meat in many Kenyan towns.
Either way, mutura remains the undisputed king of roadside snacks for a good section of Kenyans.