by Melody Mundawarara,
Different and Nutritious African Treats for the Daring Palate
The traveler who is an adventurous eater should enjoy trying these unusual Zimbabwean foods. Every country has its own different foods. Here are few that local Zimbabweans and visitors alike have enjoyed. They are worth a try if one is in the country. Most of them are also now exported.
Eat a Typical African Meal
Most Zimbabwean eat sadza at least twice a day. This is a stiff porridge, usually made from maize or corn meal. Although it does not have a very distinct taste of its own, most enjoy its texture. It also goes very well with most savory dishes made from vegetables, meat or fish.
A popular accompaniment to sadza is pumpkin leaf relish, cooked with or without peanut butter. It is made from young pumpkin leaves. Can be eaten with grilled or roast meat and sadza or used as a pasta sauce. Relish can also be made from dried meat. Originally, meat in Africa was dried plain but early Boer settlers perfected the process and invented biltong.
Biltong is made from strips of beef, or other meat, which is cured briefly in salt, marinated in vinegar and then air-dried. The resulting dried meat, which is essentially raw, is used as a snack or cooked as part of a meal. It is typically dried out in the cold air, cardboard or wooden boxes or climate-controlled cabinets or dry rooms.
Nowadays, a wide variety of biltong is available. It is frequently sold in Southern African butcheries and grocery stores. Biltong can be made from game meat such kudu, impala, springbok, ostrich, buffalo or elephant. This is usually done in some national parks, where they have to cull animals from time to time to prevent overpopulation. However, beef is the most common and a lot of people prefer beef biltong to game biltong.
Sometimes it is possible to get chicken biltong but pork, lamb or mutton are not normally used. In addition to differences from choice of spices (each biltong maker will have their favorite), the taste of biltong also varies from meat type to meat type. One can also choose between a wet or dry texture and between lean or with some fat.
Kapenta or matemba are tiny sardine-like fish; originally from Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, which was introduced into other African lakes, including Lake Kariba. They are usually sun-dried. Those who do not like the distinctive smell of dried kapenta, might prefer the fresh or frozen fish. These are, however, not always easy to find since most of the catch is now dried. The dry fish must be fried gently, otherwise it becomes bitter and smells burnt. In fact the best way to prepare them is probably to make an onion and tomato sauce and then add the fish. Kapenta can be served with sadza or rice and vegetables.
Fruits of the Wild
Mopaniworms are a popular delicacy in Southern Afr1ca. They are so called because they chiefly feed on the leaves of the wild mopani or mopane trees which grow in hot, low-lying areas. Their Shona name is madora. They are called amacimbi in Ndebele and are the caterpillars of the Emperor moth, Imbrasia belina. They have become an important food resource for people in the region. They are also available for sale in major cities such as London! Mopani worms are hand-picked in the wild, often by women and children. Their innards are then removed before they are dried. Communities have been getting help in how to harvest this resource sustainably. Dried mopane worms can be eaten raw as a quick snack. More commonly they are soaked and boiled to rehydrate, before frying until crunchy or cooking with onion, tomatoes and spices and serving with sadza.
Mazhanjeor wild loquats are amongst the most popular foods in Zimbabwe. They are harvested from the wild and sold by roadsides or brought into towns and cities for sale. Availability is generally from November to December. Although the tough skin contains bitter tannins, the flesh is honey sweet with a slight flavor of oranges. They provide a perfect ending to an African meal. The are eaten fresh, discarding the hard seeds and skins.