Little Prince Pilau – the SOP

The fresh LP…

Today we went over to Zenna Babu’s house to meet the Little Prince.  We picked up Goodluck near Makatona Pub to show us the way, then kicked it for a spell in Zenna’s living room sipping on Serengeti and listening to gospel.  Then we ate pilau.

Pilau is like an East African pilaf – masala seasoned meat and vegetables cooked with rice.   But pilau at Zenna’s is extra special, maybe because of Little Prince, or maybe because of her SOP, or maybe because she cooks it with her sister.

My homework is to replicate the Little Prince Pilau back in the US, but we think it best to share the original here first, since I’m sure I’ll muck it up with my own ideas back in Cali…

Little Prince Pilau


  • Nyama (meat) – beef, goat, or chicken (cubed or sliced)
  • Kitunguu (onion) – diced
  • Karoti (carrot) – shredded or diced
  • Nyanya (tomato) – diced
  • Vitunguu (garlic) – crushed
  • Pilipili hoho (bell pepper) – diced
  • Tangawizi (ginger) – crushed or finely sliced
  • Chumvi (salt) – to taste
  • Mafuta (oil) – sunflower or other vegetable oil
  • Iliki (cardamom – 2 tbsp) – ground
  • Mbaazi (peas) – precooked
  • Pilau masala (2-3 tbsp) – Zenna uses pre-mixed masala, but you can make your own using 1.5 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp cardamom, 0.5 tsp black pepper, 0.5 tsp cinnamon, and 0.5 tsp cloves.  Just grind all spices (if necessary) and mix ‘em up.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)a tribute to Goodluck

  1. Go outside and start your charcoal, get it hot.
  2. Place a saucepan over the fire and heat up the oil.
  3. Add the onion and sauté over high heat until browned.
  4. Add the nyamas and sauté until heated through
  5. Add the pilau masala and stir into the onion and nyama until brown spice mixture colors the pan.
  6. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to sauté.
  7. Add the cardamom and stir into the mixture.
  8. Stir in the peas.
  9. Add the tomatoes and roast over high heat until browned.
  10. Add rice and toast together with the mixture.
  11. Add water (as much as necessary depending on amount of rice) and cook covered until rice is done.
  12. Add salt to taste, and the bell pepper and carrots, mix and cover, allowing the pilau to continue cooking over a low heat.

Serve with ndizi (fried bananas), kuku (fried chicken), and a salad lightly tossed in a citrus vinaigrette.  Pair with soda Tangawizi or bia Serengeti.

Questions from Serengeti sippin’ fools:

Goodluck: “Why all these troubles, why can’t you just put the things into the pan with the rice and cook them together?”

Zenna: “You need to toast the spices and meat together with the aromatics and allow them to mature and provide the dish flavor before drowning them in rice and water.”

Ndiyo dada.  Asante sana na SOP…

Zenna (middle) and the chefs…


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