Countries Visited

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Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Antelope steaks and bunny chows: Foods of Southern Africa

Hey, whose bright idea was it to write about the foods of all six southern African countries we've visited in one huge post?

Oh, yeah, mine.

The thing is, food is pretty similar across this zone--which includes South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, and Swaziland--and, sad to say, not the most exciting we've had in Africa.

In many ways, eating in these countries was like being back in America...there are lots of supermarkets, and restaurants are kind of expensive, so we made a lot of sandwiches and cooked a lot of our own cheap pasta or rice meals. (We won't bore you with pics of those.) The "African" food--when you can even find it--tends to be some kind of stew with pap, or a stiff paste made of "mealie meal" (cornmeal).

But there were a few gems, and a few regional variations. So here we go with foods of southern Africa!

Upon landing at Jo'burg airport, we went straight to a supermarket to stock up. We don't eat a lot of potato chips at home, but when we find strange new flavors overseas, we can't resist trying them. These were both very tasty.

I was also happy to discover many new yogurt flavors I'd never heard of before. Stewed fruit and custard quickly became my favorite.
There is basically no street food in southern Africa, which means no fried balls, so we had to start eating things like candy bars. Have to unhealthy it up somehow...

OK, here's the first really strange South African food we encountered--Mageu. It's a fermented, not very sweet corn drink. Andy thought it was tolerable and I found it disgusting. Much nicer was this giant macaroon we got at the Jo'burg bus station's bakery.

On to Zimbabwe! Zimbabwe is really into pies, but not American-style apple pies...British-style savory ones. This one is Cornish, I think, which contains not hen but beef. And a disappointing cinnamon roll--in southern Africa called a Chelsea bun--for Andy.

Cream soda is very popular in southern Africa. Also, it is green, for some reason! Bright green, like the hulk. Tastes the same as the brown kind in America, though. (The setting, btw, is the Baobab Hotel in Zimbabwe, which we visited with our Belgian camper-driving friends.)

Has the world ended? Yes, I am drinking Coke. It was "free" on our very expensive Matobo safari, and I was really thirsty.
Probably the best meal we had in Zimbabwe was at a restaurant called Blu Zooloo in Vic Falls. They actually had very decent ribs (!), fish and chips, a pork chop with apple sauce for Andy...

...and pecan pie! Ben had never had pecan pie before, so we had to try it. A weird shape, but it tasted pretty authentic. A very traditional Zimbabwean meal, as you can see.

Another weird thing all across these countries--bologna is called "polony." We bought packs in several places when we were sick of peanut butter and jelly for lunch.

Botswana, despite being one of the most expensive and tourist-oriented countries we've visited, probably had the most authentic and cheap African food of all the southern African countries. Even in Kasane, where we paid $50 for dorm beds, we were able to find pap with beef curry stew at a local dive for about $3 a plate.

Oops, back to Zimbabwe for a moment, where I got a cheap sachet of drinkable yogurt. The store didn't have change for me so they gave me a little candy instead of my 10 cents.

Botswana again, after a grocery run. Left to right: nasty grape-flavoring Andy bought for his water and is still carrying around a month later; disappointing ice cream tub; OK lemon sandwich cookies.

Savannah Dry Cider is advertised up and down Africa (OK, maybe just in Ghana and South Africa, but that is both up and down). I had wanted to try one for a while, but when I finally got a free one on the Chobe River Cruise, I was a little disappointed. I much prefer Hunter's Dry Cider, which I tried later on. Both are made in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Another cheap and authentic Botswanan meal out, in Nata--beef stew, salad, and "samp," which is a corn and bean mixture that's pretty good. About $3 for this plate as well.

When cooking out in the delta, me, Andy, and Ben relived our halcyon Chilean traveling days (we were all in South America last year, by coincidence, at the same time) by making completos Italianos with our hot dogs, topping them with chopped tomato, avocado, and mayo.

OK, everyone has that one thing that they love to eat that everyone else thinks is gross, and for me that thing is tongue. My parents always got it along with the turkey and pastrami when we had a deli spread when I was a kid, and I have been hooked ever since. But it's a very New York, kosher-deli thing, so imagine my surprise when I found a package in the fridge case in a Spar Supermarket in Botswana! Botswana does produce a LOT of beef, so I guess it's not so weird, but still. Anyway, I snapped it up and quickly turned it into an overstuffed sandwich, Bens-style. Yummmmm.

Ben and I enjoyed a free beer together on the boat back from the delta. Cheers!

I got this drinkable yogurt on the way out of Botswana. I think it was peach. Tasty.

On to Namibia! Here is the best thing we ate in the whole country--an apple slice from the Shoprite Supermarket in Tsumeb. We visited many other Shoprites in many other cities (and countries!), but none of them ever duplicated the perfection of this apple-stuffed pastry covered with icing.

As Andy has mentioned, we rented a tent and some pots and camped for 10 days around Namibia. Here we are at the gorgeous campsite near Uis on our first night out, the sun setting in the background and Andy making the magic happen over the firepit. It was pasta with onions and tomato soup mix sauce that night.

I did my magic over the fire a few days later. And by did my magic, I mean set several marshmallows on fire trying to make s'mores. Poor Ben had also never had s'mores before, but we successfully addicted him by the end of our camping adventure.

We only ate out twice in Namibia, and both meals were American-priced...but considering that, pretty excellent. In Swakopmund, we each had game. Here is Andy's kudu steak with chips (fries) and veggies...

...and my springbok special with baked potato. Both were very flavorful and different from each other.

Farm Fresh is Namibia's brand of dairy products. Their yogurt is OK. I got this big tub of fruit salad flavor in Swakopmund, but I preferred the guava and apricot ones I got later.

Polony doesn't just come in packages--you can buy a whole weiner-shaped roll like this one and eat it on the beach, like we did!

Solitaire, Namibia, is famous for having a gas station and an amazing bakery. A very large man doles out huge slices of his apple pie there--they cost almost $3 (hey, that's 60 fried bananas in Madagascar!) but they are really very, very good.

Here is something you can find in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa--puffed corn snacks (kind of like cheese doodles without the cheese) rolled in spicy tomato powder. Yummy and extremely cheap.

Luderitz is a very German-feeling town on the sea in Namibia. While Andy explored, Ben and I visited a cafe to do some writing. This delicious German hot chocolate helped me work on a page or two of my novel.

Back to South Africa! At the train station in Cape Town were people selling GIANT samosas. Hooray! This was a great appetizer before we caught the train out to Adrian and Anne's for the Indian feast they cooked us (sadly, we forgot to take pictures).

In South Africa, the national food must be biltong. Biltong is dried raw meat, like American jerky. We'd heard a lot about it but didn't try any until we found ourselves parked outside of "The Biltong Factory" in Heidelberg, on our way to drive the Garden Route. The guy working inside initiated us into the delicious ways of biltong and drywors (dried sausages) with copious samples and explanations. We walked out with about $15 of delicious beef biltong and kudu sausage sticks.

Here you can see the biltong pieces drying along the wall.

Not a stogie, just a kudu stick.

South Africa's McDonalds-like fast food chain is called Wimpy. Insert 14 jokes here.

Hooray for yogurt the size of my head!

Here's the beef biltong. Sooo tasty.

In South Africa, I was happy to occasionally find peanut M&Ms pretty cheap. They are my favorite "end of trail" reward food for hiking (plus they give me energy for the return hike!). Here I am at the waterfall on the Otter Trail at Tsitsikama National Park with my fix.

More crazy chip flavors! Walkie Talkie Chicken is apparently flavored like a stew made of chicken heads and feet, and a Gatsby is a sandwich popular in Cape Town...not really sure what's in it, but we were told it is gross. Anyway, I prefered the Gatsby flavored chips to the chicken...

Andy looks way too sleepy to enjoy these orange-flavored sandwich cookies we picked up on super sale. I think they are from Oman or the UAE. Anyway, better than I thought, they tasted like creamsicles.

Apparently, we didn't eat in Lesotho. Well, we didn't eat anything interesting. We had sandwiches one night and cooked pasta the next and then we were gone. We had hoped to do dinner with a local family when we were at Malealea Lodge, but forgot to book it until it was too late. Ah well, next time.

Back in South Africa, here I am at the Giant's Castle section of Drakensberg National Park. Another hike done, another bag of reward M&Ms.

This Ceres guava juice was the best juice I had in South Africa. I tried the knockoff Spar brand, too, and it was not as good. You heard it here first.

We arrived in Durban with three goals: buy a tent, use the Internet, and try bunny chow. We only accomplished one of these goals, and you can see it here. Bunny chow is 1/3 loaf of white bread hollowed out and filled with curry. I don't know the story behind it, you can do some Googling and tell me, but it is a Durban staple and was very delicious. I had it twice in one day, then never again because we were off to Swaziland.

I think these were from South Africa, too. I just thought it was fun that they made Fritos in a chutney flavor. They weren't bad.

Swaziland! Cream donuts that look like hot dogs! You see these in most of the surrounding countries, but they were cheapest here.

Look what else I found cheap in Swaziland! Yaaaaay!

On Andy's birthday morning, we darted into the Spar whose parking lot we had just slept in and bought a celebratory breakfast of nasty fake-tasting fruit nectar and more cream hot-dog donuts.
That color is not natural! But Andy liked it.

For his birthday lunch, Andy elected to try this scary curry "loaf" that appeared to be made of meat bits and gelatin. Not so great. I went for more tongue, surprise, surprise.
Andy's birthday apple slice. This one had pineapple in it and was not as good as the one from Namibia.

Our dinner at the fancy game park we stayed in in Swaziland was impala stew (yummy) with rice and veg.

And breakfast was the full English. Yum! Wonder what kind of antelope was in the sausage...

Back to S. Africa one last time. Snacks in Kruger Park included sachets of ice cream, Fan Ice style. Pretty good.

And kudu sausage at a picnic stop. Very nice. Thanks, kudu, for being both beautiful and tasty.

On our way out of Kruger we got a box of french fries with "garlic sauce" on top. Which I think was a cornmeal paste with a lot of fresh garlic in it. Not bad at all.
Whew, finished that post with two minutes of Internet time to spare. I have no deep thoughts about all this food, except that I am happy to now be in Mozambique where there is cheap, greasy street food again!


  1. Great pics, lots of unusual and different foods, you guys must really enjoy eating! :)


  2. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

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