One of the most rewarding things to do in a destination, such as Victoria Falls, is to discover the unique flavours of its local cuisine. But when travelling to a destination with a vastly different culture to what you’re accustomed to, this may stretch you beyond your comfort level. Especially when it comes to your taste buds! But be brave and conquer these food fears, even if it is just the tiniest morsel.
On a recent visit to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, we had just the opportunity… and here’s my top three for local taste sensations:
1 Dusty Road:
Located in the heart of Chinotimba township on the outskirts of Victoria Falls, the Dusty Road dining experience offers visitors not only a taste of traditional Zimbabwean cuisine but is a sensory experience all of its own. Blackened pots and old traffic signs sit beside upcycled furniture and household items. As in most Zimbabwean homes, the chickens run wild, vegetable patches abound and chitenge (African sarong) add additional pops of colour.
2 The Boma – Dinner and Drum Show Experience:
Within the expansive treed grounds of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, The Boma dining experience offers a range of local cuisine and is a firm favourite with visitors, oas we were about to find out. After being ceremonially wrapped in a chitenge, welcomed by traditional dancers, and having our faces painted, we were ushered to our table for a hand-washing ceremony and a taste of chibuku – a local drink made out of sorghum and maize. The snack bowl of mutakura – a mixture of boiled groundnuts, peanuts, nyimo beans – round nuts, and cow peas, a great foil to the slight bitterness of the chibuku – definitely an acquired taste.
The mains buffet included a traditional chesa nyama (barbeque) where the warthog fillet, impala and crocodile tail were grilled to perfection, a delicious nyama (meat) stew made with kudu and served with a choice of sadza, mupunga une dovi – peanut butter rice, mbambaira – sweet potatoes and muriwo – green leafy vegetables, and derere – okra cooked with tomato and chillies. But if you really want to taste and challenge those food fears, then you cannot pass on the amacimbi –mopane worms, a traditional Zimbabwe delicacy, sautéed with tomato and onion, crunchy, chewy, and only just manageable, but so worth it for the certificate! There is plenty to satisfy a more western palate, but as they say when in Rome…
During the traditional feast there is music created on a traditional finger harp, a mbira, traditional dancers, and the opportunity to find your rhythm with a drumming session with a djembe drum (a skin covered goblet shaped drum, originally from West Africa). The evening is rounded off with delicious desserts and being serenaded by a group of very talented acapella singers.
3 The Wallow Lodge
We hadn’t expected a local dining experience when we checked in at The Wallow Lodge. This was all about a relaxing stay within the bush of the Victoria Falls National Park, enjoying the views over the Masuwe River from our tented suite and sundowners overlooking the impressive Batoka Gorge with the Zambezi flowing in its depths.
As we sit at our table to dine, we are given the option of the normal menu or the option of partaking in the traditional feast the chef had prepared. Who chooses normal when local cuisine is on offer?
We start with delicious nhopi, a pumpkin soup with peanut butter, followed by the option of mazondo – a stew made with cow heels, maguru – tripe, which is a top Zimbabwean delicacy, or a beef stew with mbambaira (sweet potato). I opted for the beef stew as my taste buds couldn’t quite get around the idea of tripe or cow’s feet! There is also Zambezi bream, more commonly known as tilapia, a local fish species which for centuries has been a favourite source of protein. It is prepared whole with garlic and spices, grilled to perfection and served with muboora – pumpkin leaves cooked with tomato and onions. We complete our traditional meal with the most delicious and creamy ice-cream, made using mawuya – baobab pulp.
My Zimbabwean culinary experience didn’t end there though, the next morning at breakfast, I was served a warm bowl of bota une dovi, a creamy, sweet porridge made with corn meal, peanut butter and sweetened with honey. Yum!
A glossary of Zimbabwean food names:
amacimbi – mopane worms
bota une dovi, a creamy, sweet porridge made with corn meal, peanut butter and sweetened with honey
chesa nyama – barbequed meat
chibuku – a local drink made out of sorghum and maize
chimodho – a delicious maize bread
chomolia – a traditional African kale
derere – okra cooked with tomato and chillies
inkukhu eleDovi – chicken stewed in a in peanut butter sauce
maguru – tripe, which is a top Zimbabwean delicacy
matemba – a freshwater sardine, commonly known as kapenta
mawuya – baobab pulp
mazondo – a stew made with cow heels
mbambaira – sweet potatoes
muboora – pumpkin leaves
mupunga une dovi – peanut butter rice
muriwo – green leafy vegetables
mutakura – a mixture of boiled groundnuts, peanuts, corn
nhopi – a pumpkin soup with peanut butter
nyimo beans – round nuts
sadza – a thick porridge made from maize meal, traditionally eaten with the hands
utshwala – a locally brewed beer made from sorghum
Images – Dusty Road, Tessa Buhrmann, Rafael Medina Flickr, TheSpruceEats.com, Princesstafadwa.com, Zimbo Kitchen, Wikimedia