Growing up, Sahani food truck owner David Kimani had a dream of building a business.
Early during the pandemic, Kimani and his family had the opportunity to purchase a food truck. After about a year of planning, they finally opened for business in May 2021, serving up authentic Kenyan dishes within Birmingham’s vibrant food scene.
“It started as a dream and turned into reality,” Kimani said.
Sahani – which is Swahili for “plate” – primarily serves downtown Birmingham, but can also be found on Green Springs Highway several days a week, as well as appearing at various events around the city.
Patrons of Sahani can order a variety of Kenyan dishes, ranging from more traditional fare such as Nyama Choma (barbecue lamb or goat), samosas, ugali (a corn flour porridge made in Africa) and Kenyan sausages, to foods more common among Americans like burgers, quesadillas and Philly cheesesteaks.
“Traditionally, Nairobi foods include a lot of rice and stew, but there is a wide range of different foods and flavors our culture has to offer,” Kimani explains. “Some of our popular dishes include Mukimo (Kenyan mashed potatoes), Matumbo (a hearty stew), Chips Masala (which are like French fries mixed with beef and vegetables), and Chapo Smokie (Kenyan sausage wrapped with a slice of Chapati).
Kimani, 24, emigrated to Birmingham from Nairobi, Kenya, with his parents and older brother when he was 4, growing up in Homewood, and later living in Fultondale and Hoover.
A graduate of the University of Alabama, Kimani says his parents instilled in him from a young age the importance of a strong work ethic and education.
“I saw my parents work days and nights doing odd jobs to make sure my brother and I had all we needed, so from a young age it was instilled in me to always work hard for what I wanted,” he said. “The main reason we came to the U.S. was for the education of my brother and me, so that was evident in how I did in school. Starting me off in a top school system here in Birmingham, I was able to go to a great university, get a great degree, and eventually get a great job.”
Now a data analyst for Alabama Power, Kimani joins a growing wave of young, minority entrepreneurs who are making an impact on the burgeoning food and culture landscape in Birmingham.
“Being a young entrepreneur, it is great to feel the support not only from other local food truck owners, but also from people in the community,” he said. “We have a lot of room to grow, but I also thank God every day for his timing and take each day as it comes.”