What you need to know:
- Initially, street food was limited to the likes of flour-coated fried potatoes, fried cassava, cassava crisps and vegetable samosas.
- Gone are the days when tourists had a limited choice of street food, as street food vendors now cater to different customers.
Kenya's coastal region undoubtedly boasts an incredible mix of cultures where traditional food is the proverbial key to any visitor's heart.
Over the years, coastal communities have brought these delicacies to the streets so that residents and visitors alike can get a taste of what their culture has to offer.
Initially, street food was limited to the likes of flour-coated fried potatoes (viazi karai), fried cassava, cassava crisps and vegetable samosas.
However, the street food culture has now grown to include dishes that were once thought to be the preserve of the few, served only in restaurants or at key cultural events.
Gone are the days when tourists had a limited choice of street food, as street food vendors now cater to different customers.
From snacks like mahamri, mitai, halwa, mabuyu, kashata and achari, to fast food like chips, viazi karai, bhajia, meat samosas, shawarma, chicken tikka and mishkaki, a walk through the streets of Mombasa will leave many salivating.
Whole meals such as biryani are also sold on the streets these days, not to mention drinks such as sugarcane and tamarind juice, which are readily available.
Hussein Mohammed, a resident of Mombasa, says things have changed a lot compared to the past few years.
"Nowadays you can find a lot of coastal cuisine on the streets. In the 1990s, you would only find women selling 'viazi karai' near their homes or in schools," says Hussein Mohammed, pointing out that young men have immersed themselves in being part of this changing culture.
During an afternoon or evening stroll, the streets are full of sweet-smelling local food.
Vendors are usually busy frying, roasting or grilling on huge street-side jikos, or grills connected to gas tanks.
A variety of coastal dishes are displayed by the roadside.
"Cooking in Mombasa is somewhat an art that has been experimented and perfected by generations. Unlike many years ago when you could only find viazi karai, bhajia and cassava chips popularly known as kachiri, there are now a variety of delicacies," adds Mr Mohammed.
Residents have now adopted the practice of eating outdoors because of the booming street food business, which has also been greatly influenced by the coastal climate.
"We are used to eating outdoors with our families and friends. Sometimes we don't even cook at home because we can get all kinds of food outside," says Daniel Makali, a resident of Mombasa.
Makali says Mombasa City is so different from other counties where you are greeted by street vendors selling githeri in a bucket.
"If you go to places like Nairobi and Nakuru, the only thing you'll find in abundance is boiled githeri, Mombasa is the place to be," he added.
The proximity of vendors and markets such as Mwembe Tayari and Markiti is another reason why the street food culture has flourished, especially for consumers who want to take food to eat at home.
"You can even order food online from the comfort of your home," says Grace Kavodha, a Mombasa resident.
Despite all this, the county government and other relevant authorities may have to step in to ensure that the booming businesses follow the laid down measures, especially for safety and health.
According to the Food, Drugs and Chemical Substances Act cap 254, no food should be sold on the streets.
But with the culture of street vending deeply entrenched in Mombasa, the county government is in the process of stepping in to control the businesses.
According to Mombasa's Chief Public Health Officer, Abdallah Daleno, the county is preparing a new food safety policy that will take into account the new trends.
"It hasn't been approved yet, it's still in draft form. At the moment, no street vendors are allowed to operate, no licences are being issued," he said.