Long-horn cow, Kilembe, Uganda (2012-05)

It’s dead, Jim! (Food and drink in Africa, pt. 2)


Some readers might think it’s crazy to go and eat street food in Africa. They have seen the images of meat buzzing with flies in the hot African sun. Well, if it makes you feel any better: cooked meat is hard to come by on the streets; and if you find it it’s been cooked until every last trace of life is gone. And by the way: the meat is usually really fresh – you can watch the butcher do his work right by the side of the road.

Across most of Africa, two types of meat dishes are common: roasted chicken and beef stew. In any case, you will pay by the piece. The taste of the meat is often covered with spicy piri-piri sauce. The chicken is usually bone dry.

I have never had bush meat. But we had a few memorable meetings with hunters, like this one: While we were digging the truck out of the mud in the Republic of Congo, just a few miles from the Gabonese border, a man with a wheel barrow walked by. In the wheel barrow sat a very unhappy looking crocodile. We politely declined when he offered it to us for 40,000 CFA (about 80 USD).

South Africa and Namibia might be the most honest about their meat: it’s dry, drier, dried. To be fair: braai, barbecue, is a national past time in South Africa and the food is usually delicious. But biltong is something like a national dish. It’s made from a variety of animals from cow to antelope and with different spices. The best biltong I had was made from cow and came from a truck stop in Skeleton Coast National Park, Namibia, a few hours North of Swakopmund.

And sometimes you get lucky…

When we were in Mali, we had set our minds on doing a pig roast. Needless to say that Mali is a very Muslim country. Muslims are not allowed to eat pork. But we managed to find the only pig farmer in Bamako. I went to his farm on a hill above town and picked a pig. We dubbed him Percy. The next morning, I came to take Percy to the roast. Though I had seen him alive only a few hours before I didn’t feel bad. After all, we were involved in every aspect of the cooking (apart from the actual killing) and every piece was used when we invited everybody at the Sleeping Camel hostel to join in on the feast.

In Tanzania, I had heard about ancient Swahili ruins near the small coastal village of Kilwa Masoko and decided to see them. I arrived on the bus, checked into a lovely little guest house right by the market, and went for dinner. I had been walking around the market area and along the dusty streets of the village for about an hour and had found little more than french fries, chapati, and dried fish when I stumbled across a bar on the main road. Just for the sake of it, I asked whether they served any food when I ordered my beer. They motioned me to a little bar. Yes, they had food. French fries. I  pointed at some meat in the back. Mbuzi. Roasted goat, seasoned only with salt and a few slices of lemon. I was back for the same the next night.

East Africa has a lot of cows. On the road to Kilwa Masoko, Masai ladies are selling the animals’ milk. Masai will also draw the blood from live cows to drink it. Still, meat is hard to get and ever too often just dry. Uganda is a bit different. Beef skewers are sold widely by the side of the road. By far the best beef skewers are sold at an intersection in Masaka. Lucky for hungry travelers, any bus going to the southern or southeastern part of the country will pass by this intersection. The skewers are large; the beef is hot, lean, and juicy. Complete your meal with the Ugandan variety of chapati conveniently sold in bags of three with the skewers.

In the next installment, read all about the marvels of delicious, fresh fish in Africa.

Do you have anything to add? Thoughts? Opinions? Let me know!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.