Africa like other continents in the world has authentic cuisines from the different tribes that dominate the continent. In fact, different regions of the continent eat different foodstuffs. The continent has very many delicious and spicy meals known to a few people.
Mahamri happens to be a street snack and the main breakfast dish. Other street snacks of the continent include bunny chow of South Africa, akara of Nigeria and other countries of the West African region and sardines of Morroco among others.
Recently, my friend and I were having friends’ reunion party at my residence which meant that the friends were going to sleep over. I kept pondering what to make for breakfast meal now that everyone was out dancing. Then my friend came up with the idea ‘let’s make mahamri’ this brought back memories of my visit to the coastal town of Kenya known as Mombasa. I knew this was the perfect idea.
In 2010, I visited my friend in Kenya. At the time she was living there with her parents. One thing I discovered was that apart from having a rich culture they had this delicious cultural cuisine. I loved Mahamri, in fact I would never get enough of it so I decided to learn how to make it. Below is the recipe for you to try.
The origin of mahamri
Mahamri which you can describe as Swahili fried bread was first made in the coastal areas of East Africa. The Swahili people inhabited this place. When the young women realized that they didn’t have bread or meals for their family’s breakfast they felt the need to create their own.
That is when they used the readily available wheat flour, cardamom, coconut milk and yeast to create it. Now, although most internet sources like to describe it as a doughnut I somehow disagree with it. This is not a doughnut, it is way sweeter. I do know that they are trying to make you understand it by referring to it as a doughnut but it really is not.
The snack is common in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It is, however, gaining popularity in other neighbouring countries like Somalia, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.
Basically, every area that you can find the Swahili people, you must find this snack. Note that, the Swahili cultural cuisine is one of the most delicious and authentic in the region.
With that said let’s delve into the preparation process:
How to Make Mahamri
Servings: to make 32 mahamri pieces
- 6 cups of all-purpose wheat flour
- 1 and a half teaspoon of instant yeast
- 14-20 tablespoons of sugar. This depends o how sweet you would want it to be
- Ground cardamom/ cardamom powder (famously known as alike in Swahili)
- 1 and a half cup of thick and heavy coconut milk
- About 1 cup of light coconut milk
- A tablespoon of butter, ghee or margarine
- Enough oil to fry the mahamri.
Items you need for the preparation
For most people today, you buy coconut milk in the grocery stores but for us here in Kenya, we still believe in shredding the coconut ourselves to make the milk. Therefore, you will need
- A coconut shredder
- A frying pan or oven
- Rolling stick
- A clean bowl
- A knife
- Deep fryer utensils basket scoop
Homemade Coconut milk
If you are going to buy the ready-made coconut milk that is okay but we like it freshly made.
Here is the process:
- Take two large coconuts and break each to half.
- Take a clean bowl and place below the coconut grater.
- Take one half of the coconut, sit on the coconut grater and start shredding as shown in the image below.
Then take the shredded coconut and place on a clean kitchen cloth. Fold as shown below:
- Sprinkle some little amount of water over it and squeeze out the thick coconut milk. Keep sprinkling some little amount of water on it as you squeeze.
- Set the thick milk aside and add some water to make the light coconut milk and set aside.
Note that, there are so many other tools that you can use to make the coconut milk. Find the one that suits you best or buy ready made coconut milk if you have limited time but for best results use the freshly shredded coconut.
Preparing mahamri dough
Step 1- Make the dough
In your clean bowl, place all the dry ingredients which include the flour, cardamom, yeast, sugar and the butter/ghee/margarine mix them all and start kneading using the thick coconut milk. Use your hands to knead for about 15 minutes. If you have the kneading machine the better, you can use it for the process.
Pound it as much as you can to ensure it is well kneaded. It should not feel sticky on your hands and neither should it be sticking on your bowl. Use a knife to slit the dough and if it is slightly bubbly like bread dough, it is ready.
You can then cover the dough with a film wrap or damp cloth. Let your dough rest for about 3-4 hours although, I usually let mine rest overnight. It should double in size.
Step 2- Dividing the dough
First, divide the dough into 8 pieces then take each piece and roll into a ball. Place the balls on surface that you have sprinkled flour sparingly to avoid sticking.
Take one ball and roll it to a cylindrical shape while ensuring you sprinkle some flour on the surface to avoid sticking. Cut the circle shape into half and then half of the 2 halves you made to form 4 pieces. Do that for the other pieces remaining. Remember to cover the pieces with the film wrap to avoid hardening of the pieces.
You can take your kneaded dough cut into the pieces you wish to have, in our case it is 32 pieces. Place on a surface where you have sprinkled some flour to avoid sticking and cover with a damp kitchen cloth or film wrap then let it rest for about 3-4 hours. It will puff and probably double in size. Then begin the cooking process.
Step 3 – The cooking process
When you are using the deep-frying method
- Place your vegetable oil in the frying pan/wok.
- Bring it to your stove to heat.
- Check whether the oil is ready for frying by placing a little piece of the dough in the pan of oil. If the dough piece stays at the bottom of the pan for a short while then comes to the surface know that it is ready.
- On the other hand, if it stays at the bottom for so long, heat the oil a little longer because it is not ready yet. While if the dough piece bubbles on the surface immediately you place it in the pan, the oil is too hot and you may need to cool it a little bit.
- Note, you want your mahamri cooked not hard or burnt on the surface while the inside is raw. The mahamri should be golden brown in colour and a little puff on the inside.
- Place the pieces of mahamri on the heated oil, preferably 4 at a time.
- Use the deep-frying scoop spoon to sprinkle oil over the mahamri to help it puff quicker.
- Turn the other side when cooked on one side. The colour should be golden brown.
- Place on your serving bowl that you lined with paper towel. This helps to absorb excess oil. Repeat the process for all other remaining pieces.
When using the oven
- You can use the second alternative of making the dough as indicated above. Where after kneading the dough perfectly, you cut into the pieces to make the balls. Roll the balls and cut into 4 pieces making 32 pieces and place on your ready baking tray. Let the pieces puff and rest for about 3 hrs.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to about 200 ̊C. Place on the lowest rack for about 10 minutes then transfer to the highest rack of the oven for about 5-10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and apply some butter or margarine on the surface of the mahamri to maintain the texture.
- Serve hot with Kenyan chai/tea, pigeon peas and tea or with any other curry for a heavy lunch or dinner.
- Some people use an egg to make it softer. It’s optional so I don’t use it at all.
- To increase the coconut flavour on your mahamri, you may use the coconut liquid (found in the coconut when you break it) to make the coconut milk. This means, instead of using water, use the liquid and you will have richer and healthier coconut flavour.
- If you are a health conscious individual then you may use the whole wheat flour and a little bit of white flour.
- The healthy option is also to bake the mahamri instead of deep frying. Although the most common process here is the deep frying one, the baking is healthy for you.
- This yeast is suited for the tropical climate so you may want to add some more to suit your temperature. Remember do not use baking powder to replace yeast, this recipe requires that you use yeast.
Although the recipe is almost the same as you can see there is a difference between a doughnut and mahamri because the mahamri contain coconut milk. The mahamri is also not supposed to have some hole on the inside as opposed to a doughnut that is stuffed.
As you can see this is a very easy recipe. The ingredients are readily available so why not try it today and get back to me with more questions and results.