Kuku Paka (East Africa’s fine coconut curry)
Kuku Paka also known as Kuku na Nazi is an East African coconut curry sauce popular in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It is thought that the word “paka” may have its origins in India. Kuku, however, is closer home. It means chicken in Swahili. Evidently, coconut curries are popular in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. However, the list of dishes that make use of coconut milk or cream is really not that long across Africa, which surprises me given how common coconut milk is. It is, therefore, an absolute pleasure to showcase this somewhat exclusive dish – Kuku Paka – in all its uniqueness and tropical glory. Kuku Paka does, however, have a couple of things in common with most curries. The spices used, which includes curry, turmeric and coriander seeds are common spices used in other coconut curries.
Whether it is enjoyed as lunch or dinner, Kuku Paka is a mainstay of East African cuisine and it is excellent in the way it combines the traditionally African ingredients and method of cooking with the best the Indian subcontinent and the Arab world has to offer. It is best enjoyed with rice, preferably Wali wa Nazi, the coconut rice which is another mainstay of East African cuisine, especially amongst the coastal East Africans.
This is a creamy, somewhat sweet, spicy and rich curry that had one of my guests asking if it was Mafe – groundnut stew. It shares the same yellowish sandy colour with groundnut soup. However whilst mafe and other groundnut stews and soups gets their colour from groundnuts (peanuts), Kuku Paka gets its colour from the rich coconut milk of East Africa.
Some will argue that this curry in its most authentic form should be eaten with a boiled egg or two alongside Naan bread. Lets not split hairs. Whatever you have it with, Kuku Paka is simply unique in its excellence and flavour.