Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mini Vitumbuas

Click on the video above to see how I make the vitumbuas.

Growing up in Kenya, I remember looking forward to the long December holidays when schools were closed for months.That was the time of the year with the best weather and the anticipation of Christmas was building. This was the time of the year when holiday music would play from every store in an attempt to lure you into the holiday spending mode. For me, the excitement lay most in the promise of a trip away from the hassle and bustle of the city. The choices for our family was to either go to the countryside to visit my grandmothers, or go the the Coast (the city of Mombasa to be precise). Either choice was fine with me as both my grandmothers spoilt me rotten being that I was the last-born :-). But the allure of playing on the sugar-white sandy beaches of Mombasa, swimming in the warm turquoise waters of the Indian ocean and sampling the infinite choices of the Swahili people's cuisine, made me feel like my heart was being pulled in two different directions. What made the decision easy for us as a family was the logistics of it all. My parents always somehow managed to fit themselves and ALL five of us kids in the family car- a  1960's Sky-blue Peugeot 404 (which we called our 6th born because my father treated it with such care and devotion!). If you feel so inclined to look up this car online, you will ask yourself the same thing I have asked myself many a times over the years-how ever did we all fit in there?!? Though Mombasa was quite a distance from the capital city of Nairobi (where I grew up), for the same reasons I mentioned earlier,we occasionally braved the discomfort of the long trip and went anyway. And boy, weren't we glad we did! I remember the recipe I am about to share as being one of my favourite dishes from those trips. So much so that my mom put it on our family meal rotation. These treats are called "Vitumbuas (prul.) and "Kitumbua" (singl.).

Vitumbuas are are a type of rice, cardamom and coconut treat found on the East coast of Africa. They are spongy, aromatic and delicious! These can be eaten as a side-dish alongside savoury dishes, with tea or coffee or as a snack on their own. I have made the mini version of these treats in this video. These can also be made to be pancake-sized if you so desire. Do not let the name intimidate you, these are very simple to make and the batter can be prepared ahead of time. The recipe follows:
Serving Size: This recipe makes 25 vitumbuas.
***Special equipment: Two bamboo skewers (the type you use for kebabs) or two chopsticks. Pastry brush, laddle and a pan with wells (round cavities). I used an "ebelskiver" pan. I got mine at Macy' It can also be purchased on You can also use an "appam" pan (found on, in Indian stores or websites), or  a Japanese "tokoyaki" pan (can be found on*****
****Special Ingredients: Cardamom Powder and Semolina (also known as Suji or Farina. It is the same flour used to make pasta).*****


-1 1/2 cups short or medium grain rice that has been soaked overnight and completely drained using a sifter/strainer/sieve.
-1 cup granulated sugar.
-1/2 teaspoon of cardamom powder.
-1 teaspoon rapid rise/ instant yeast.
-1 3/4 cup heavy coconut milk (I use canned coconut milk).
-1 teaspoon of course semolina flour (this gives it a little bit of a crunch on the outside).
-1/4 cup vegetable oil for cooking (you can also use canola oil).

-Combine all the above ingredients in a blender. Puree for about two-three minutes at a time and let the blender rest for a minute or two in between these pulses.
-Once the mixture is smooth and there are no more traces of rice in the mixture, remove and transffer to a covered air-tight container to let the dough rise. Let this container sit at room temperature for about an hour.
-After an hour, uncover the container and use your laddle to stir the mixture.
-In the meantime, heat up your ebelskiver/ appam / tokoyaki pan on medium heat. Once its hot to the touch, use a pastry brush to apply a few drops of oil into the wells. If you do not have a pastry brush, use a tablespoon to pour a few drops of oil into each well. One tablespoonfull should be enough to use in all the 7 wells per batch of vitumbuas you make (you dont need a lot of oil).
-To find out if your pan and oil are hot enough to cook the vitumbuas, insert the tip of one of the chop-sticks into the oil. If bubbles appear around the stick, the oil and pan are ready to be used.
-Scoop a laddlefull of the vitumbua dough and distribute evenly into each well. Try not to fill each well to the brim. 3/4 way up the well is ideal. That way, the vitumbua dough won't spill out of the wells as you flip them.

-Once the edges of the vitumbuas start to detach from the walls of the wells and start to look golden brown, it is time to flip them over. Use the tip of the skewer/ chopstick to gently lift and flip the vitumbuas over. Repeat this process until all the vitumbuas are cooked on both sides(as shown on the video). Keep doing this until all the dough is used up.

-As you cook each batch of vitumbuas, place them on a plate lined with paper towels (to absorb any excess oil. There will barely be any oil as this recipe uses very little oil).
The vitumbuas are best served hot. Enjoy!!
Love and good eats from my meza, to yours.