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It may be tough for a gluten-free (GF) resident or visitor in Nairobi, but if you know where to look, you will realize that you have countless options. In fact, most of the foods that we already eat are GF, and the idea is to substitute. With patience, research, creativity, and time, you will eventually find what works for you.
Not all restaurants understand the concept of GF, but there are some who have unique dishes on their menu to choose from. Don’t be too overwhelmed trying to discover all the restaurants, instead, try one restaurant at a time. Examples of restaurants that offer GF options include The Talisman, Tamambo Karen Blixen, The Carnivore and Zen Garden. Some restaurants in Nairobi have their menu online, and you can have a look at it before walking in. They also have reservation numbers that you can call beforehand to inquire. It is better to be prepared than to arrive at the restaurant and find that they do not have something for you.
Open markets will feature many alternatives, and a person can find a way to replace their carbohydrates with complex carbs, like brown rice and sweet potatoes. These markets also sell fruits, vegetables, fish, and grains. There are many fresh fruit and vegetable markets in most estates in Nairobi, characterized by makeshift stalls, and vendors can buy tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and leafy vegetables. Examples of markets are Ngara Fruits & Vegetable Market, Ngara Road and Toi Market, which is known for clothes but also has fruit stalls.
In Nairobi, GF products are getting wider shelf space. Keep searching and read the labels on products to see if they are GF. Some of the keywords in the ingredients that you want to avoid are wheat, rye, barley, durum, semolina, and spelt. Some of the stores getting it right are Healthy U, Nakumatt, and Chandarana Food Plus. It may be a time-consuming process but familiarize yourself with your staple products and see what works for you. Look through the pastry section and the frozen food section for GF cookies. Some of these products will even have a gluten free certification seal, and this should give you more confidence. You can find GF bread or make yours at home with different flours. Try whole grains like quinoa, amaranth, rice, and teff, which you can find in Chandarana Food Plus.
There are many online shops and private bakers that make great GF pastries upon request. Nutrieats is a Kenyan company that delivers yummy “munchies” on your doorstep and they have some high protein cookies and GF snacks that can come in handy. They have chocolate sweet potato brownies, chocolate chip protein cookie dough, blueberry oat muffins, and carrot cakes, among other treats. You can also experiment with a host of other private bakers online.