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Namibian Food: 8 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Namibia

Namibian Food: 8 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Namibia

Namibia is a landlocked country located in southern Africa, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Zambia, Angola, Botswana and South Africa. The country is famous for its natural beauty. Some of the popular places to visit include Etosha National Park, Fish River Canyon Park, the Namib Desert and the Kalahari Desert.

Half of the population of Namibia is made up of the Ovambo people. The Herero, Himba, and Damara are other ethnic groups in the country.

Most Popular Namibian Dishes

Namibian cuisine is predominantly a reflection of traditional local cooking techniques by the Himba, Herero and San groups. However, dishes introduced during colonial times (by those of German, Afrikaner and British descent) also played a major role in shaping the country’s cuisine. 

Some of the common ingredients used in the precolonial period included a wide variety of fruits, nuts, bulbs, leaves and several other foods collected from wild plants or obtained through hunting. Several years later, the use of milk products and meat also became prevalent in the country’s cuisine. 

So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Namibia along with recipes to try for yourself.

Meat Skewers

Meat skewers

Meat skewers are an extremely popular street food snack prepared using different types of meats including beef, crocodile, antelope, zebra, giraffe, lamb and ostrich. One can easily find meat skewers being served at a wide variety of food stalls throughout the country.

During its cooking, peanut butter, lemon, red chili, salt, pepper and coconut milk, among other ingredients are added to improve the flavor. 

Oshithima (Maize or Mahangu Pap)

Mahangu Pap is a traditional Namibian porridge prepared using pearl millet flour. This gluten-free dish is widely consumed in the Oshiwambo culture. It is also considered a staple in the northern part of the country.

In many regions of Namibia, people mix pearl millet flour with both mahangu and millet/maize flour to make the dish taste even better. This dish can be accompanied by a wide range of stews, such as spinach and vegetable stew, beef stew, and even kapana or mopane worms.

El Potjiekos

Namibian Food: 8 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Namibia 1

El Potjiekos is a dish that consists of game meat placed in a three-legged iron pot and cooked over a free fire, along with a range of other ingredients.

Some of the most commonly used ingredients added to El Potjiekos include cauliflower, carrots, cabbage and pumpkin. Many different herbs and spices are also added to enhance the flavor and the meat used is usually either poultry or venison.

The name ‘El Potjiekos’ literally translates to small pot food and is originally a Dutch-influenced dish. This dish is usually consumed at parties and picnics, and it is usually accompanied by freshly baked bread. It is easy to find El Potjiekos at restaurants and food stalls throughout the country. 

Meliepap

Meliepap

Mieliepap, also known as maize meal, is a typical Namibian porridge or polenta prepared using corn flour or honey soup and accompanied with goat, lamb, or even fish. It is also common for people to add ingredients like peppers or onions, and it is an important part of the daily diet for many of the country’s inhabitants. 

Also considered to be the staple of the Oshiwambo community, this dish is typically consumed for breakfast. 

Biltong

Biltong

Biltong are bits of air-dried beef marinated with salt and vinegar. It is later flavored using several spices, and then hung to dry for at least two weeks.

Typically eaten as a snack, biltong can use a wide variety of meats, such as springbok and kudu. Beef biltongs are the most popular.

Centuries ago, this method was used by the Afrikaners and Dutch to store meat so that it would not go bad.

The Oodhingu

Oodhingu, or dried meat, is a typical Namibian dish that is prepared with a wide variety of fresh meats that are cut into strips and placed in the sun until they are dry. Later, they are seasoned with salt and cooked over an open fire. It can be consumed both alone and as an ingredient in different stews.

It is believed that oodhingu was originally a technique used to preserve meat when before refrigerators were common.

The main types of meat used in its preparation include beef, goat, gazelle or kudu.

Oshingali (Peeled Black-eyed Beans Puree)

Oshigali is a dish that consists of a puree prepared using peeled white beans. This dish is commonly consumed by people of the Oshiwambo and Okavango communities.

People also add salt and paprika to add flavor. Its cooking can be carried out in two ways: over an open fire or using a pressure cooker. 

They are usually finished with a little paprika and later served covered with Marura oil.

Boerewors

Boerewors

Boerewors are a type of ground sausage prepared mainly with beef, goat or lamb, cut into small pieces, and seasoned with vinegar and salt. Different spices are added later into the sausage skin.

The name ‘Boerewors’ originates from Afrikaans or Dutch and means farmer’s sausage.

Originally from Europe, its cooking can be done in different ways. Some of the most popular methods include grilling, frying, baking or cooking on an open fire. They are typically served with a salad or battered barbecue bread.

Kapana

Kapana

Kapana is quite simply small pieces of freshly shredded beef cooked on a grill along with different spices such as chili and salt. It is served with a sauce made of chopped onion and tomatoes, which accentuates the flavor and freshness of the meat.

Other commonly served accompaniments include mashed potatoes, salads and refreshing drinks.

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