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Chips Masala by Rumasha Beni

Potatoes are the most widely consumed vegetable in Kenya, with regular appearances in integral dishes across most of our communities - and who doesn't love chips?

Onions, garlic, bell peppers, and tomatoes combine to provide a readily available and recognizable local salsa-esque coating for the popular potato fries dish called chips masala, which is exactly what the name suggests: “flavored fries”.

Introduced to East Africa by British farmers in the 1880s, the potato has grown in importance, both as a staple food and as a source of farmer income at the core of Kenyan society. It is not known when we started to fry the beautiful vegetable, but we haven’t stopped since! Perfectly crispy fries mixed in with the local base ingredients of all our stews and curries give the potatoes an overall classic Kenyan flavor and eating experience.

It is commonly served on major celebrations but is also available as a street food option at any and every little local fast food joint, which is where I had my first masala chips, and my Congolese family would never make this at home because the vendors know best.

Serves 2 to 4

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Oil for frying

500g potatoes

1 medium red onion

2 chilies, minced (optional)

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

Dhania (coriander)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

4 garlic cloves

Garam masala

Nutmeg (optional)

Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar



Black pepper

To make the chips:

  1. In a large frying pot, add up to 3 inches of oil heated to 350°F (175°C). Fry your potato buttons for 10-12 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown.

  2. Allow chips to rest on a paper towel, season with salt and pepper while still hot.

To make the masala:

  1. In a large frying pan, on medium-high heat, pour enough vegetable oil to just about cover the bottom of your pan.

  2. Once the oil is shimmering, add your onion and garlic, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them. Cook them down until they start browning. (Reduce the heat if the onions start to burn too quickly).

  3. As your onions brown, add your sliced peppers and saute them until soft, or about 3 minutes.

  4. Pour in your cumin, garam masala, turmeric, and minced chilies. Mix well until fragrant and well combined.

  5. Add your tomato paste to the mixture and combine well. Allow the tomato paste to turn a deeper red to signal it's been cooked through. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to slightly loosen the thick paste.

  6. Add your potato fries, and coriander, and carefully mix them on low heat for about 2 minutes, ensuring that every fry gets a generous coating of your ‘masala’.

  7. Drizzle your fries with about a tablespoon's worth of lemon juice or vinegar, and season to taste. Serve them hot!


  • Pairs incredibly well with dry roast meats.

  • Do not freeze, as it’ll make the fries soggy and impossible to reheat.

  • Best served when hot.


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