Eagles Rock Tours & Safaris in their collection of itineraries has selected a gastronomy tour dedicated to the Namibian cuisine and South African wines.
Since time immemorial, food has brought people together, to celebrate, indulge, and nourish. Nowhere is this more evident than in the South-western regions of Africa, where the variety of unique flavours and styles of cuisine to be enjoyed makes every meal an unforgettable gastronomic occasion. For the past four centuries, people from various geological
locations have mingled and joined to create meals that nourish the body and the soul, using ingredients unique to their culture and location to create dishes unlikely to be found elsewhere in the world.
Southern Africa cuisine is a potpourri of exotic flavours cultivated over centuries. In the early days of the colonisation of the Cape at the southern tip of Africa some 400 years ago, the occupying trading house Dutch East India Company or VOC imported additional slave labour from their East Asian colonies such as Bengal, Ceylon, Indonesia and Malaysia. These slaves brought their culinary traditions with them, thus permanently influencing the otherwise Dutch and later European cuisine to what today is commonly called the Cape Malay cuisine in South Africa. Subsequently indentured labourers from India added to the kaleidoscope of tastes. Many of these recipes and traditions the Boer settlers took with them on their way north and into what is today Namibia bear the imprint of these East Asian traditions, the most famous being Bobotie and Sosaties, but with many more locally varying exotic foods.
Namibia’s cuisine is influenced by German and South African traditions owing to its colonial history, although there are many indigenous recipes and natural food sources that are enthusiastically consumed by the highly diversified Namibian populace. As such, Oshifima or Mahangu millet porridge is staple food in the northern regions, often served with traditionally prepared so-called Marathon chicken and wild spinach, popular are grilled Mopane worms, and Marula fruits in season that are also used to brew a sweet-sour slightly alcoholic beer. In February, during the rainy season, the delicious edible Omajowa mushroom is harvested at the base of termite mounds and sold along the roads. These mushrooms have found their entrance in the finest restaurants countrywide, and are widely appreciated as a precious delicacy.
Have you ever indulged in a perfectly grilled venison steak whilst looking out over the endless plains of the savannah, scattered with all manner of antelope and zebra, silhouetted against a blood red horizon? Or sipped on a crisp and fruity chardonnay, cooled by a fresh summer afternoon breeze and enjoying the view of the fertile vineyards reaching as far as the eye can see? Maybe you would prefer having your dinner under the deep blue night sky, the Milky Way like a river of stars above you, and the soft light of the moon illuminating each rock and ancient boulder in the ancient land you are in.
To start your culinary journey, you can dine on Euro-African dishes from a restaurant overlooking the boundless bushveld, where majestic animals like lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and leopards have found sanctuary. Try Droëwors (a form of sausage that has been dried and cured to preserve it), and Biltong (meat that has been cut into strips, dried and cured to preserve it) for snacks. Or a smoky Braaivleis (a popular method of cooking various white and red meats over an open fire, often served with “mielie pap”, a traditional maize porridge and a tomato relish, accompanied by fresh, crisp salads.)
Heading to the north of Namibia, you will arrive at the Etosha National Park, the largest endorheic saltpan, and a protected paradise for the Etosha Big Five (which consists of elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and cheetah) and 139 more mammal species. Here you can enjoy the inspiring country-styled homely cuisine with vast buffets where you will be spoilt for choice with different salads, traditional side dishes, grilled meats, stir-fries (all fresh and prepared in front of every guest), and last but not least, a wonderful spread of sweet treats, cheeses and biscuits for dessert. Or an a la carte menu that offers the unique Eland antelope rump steak (one of the many types of game that roam freely in the area), or juicy Namibian A-grade beef rump (from Namibian free-range cattle) grilled to perfection and served with traditional side dishes. Also on the menu, you will find a variety of seafood sourced from the deep Atlantic Ocean and a vegetarian pasta that is to die for.
For those looking for something a little more exotic, there are always crispy fried Mopane worms, tripe, and Omajowa mushrooms when in season.
The next stop would be Damaraland. Home to one of the largest collections of rock paintings found in Southern Africa. In Damaraland, you can dine in one of the finest buffet styled restaurants with assorted venison, white and red meat, whilst enjoying a truly magical sunset over the desert-like savannah plains and distant mountains. Now is the time to taste a typical South African liquor that you only find here, and this is Amarula, a liquor produced from Marula fruits, an endemic African fruit tree. This creamy drink is the perfect after-dinner cocktail.
On the Namibian Coast, you will find Swakopmund, a town nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Namib Desert. Because of its German colonialist history, there is a significant presence of German cuisine. One of the heartiest dishes to feast on would be the crackling Eisbein (the shoulder of a pig that goes through the process of being pickled, cured or smoked, boiled slightly and then grilled) traditionally served with Sauerkraut. Another famous cuisine found in this wondrous town would be butter-, garlic- and lemon-grilled West Coast Rock Lobster, only found on the rocky shores of the southern Atlantic in Namibia and South Africa.
Swakopmund is also the place to entice your taste buds with freshly harvested oysters, obtained from the oyster farms in Walvis Bay and relished as the most savoury oysters in the world. Then, most restaurants will provide you with a selection of cold locally brewed draught beers and lagers to go with it. In the Swakopmund riverbed, organically grown vegetable such as olives and asparagus are cultivated and find their way on the country’s plates.
On the route towards the south, amid the Namib Desert, Sossusvlei is a must go. It not only has the highest dunes in the world, it also has some of the best game pies and chocolate cake ever to be found. It is here where you can find traditional Boer cuisine, in good South African tradition. Here you have the opportunity to try the famous Braaivleis, sitting around the fireplace and waiting for the assortment of white and red meat to be cooked. Not to mention the freshly baked bread that is served with meals, the locally produced organic vegetables, and homemade delectable pickled olives.
Even further, towards the East, you will find yourself in the Kalahari, where juicy venison steaks are served on a deck overlooking a watering hole that various types of game come to quench their thirst. There is also the option of dining in the dunes under the magnificent starlit sky.
Lastly, there is no better place to go wine and dine than in Cape Town, the Cape Winelands, and Franschhoek. Here you have the opportunity to meet the Cape Dutch, and Cape Malay cuisine, with all its curried and spiced up recipes. Besides, there are accumulatively 278 different wine farms and estates to choose from in the vicinity, many of which can be visited for wine tasting. Each farm or estate provides its own unique way of presenting its wines with self-made cheese platters, cold meats, fruits, or other dishes that pair well with their wines. You will learn about the process of how the wine is made and what gives it its distinctive palette. This is one of the most extraordinary scenes you have the pleasure of visiting.
These are only a few of the palatable culinary experiences you may come across whilst on your travel.
The culinary experience of the South-western region of Africa can only be described as a successful marriage of various cultural dishes from all over the world. It is an explosion of flavours that might never have found its way into this world if it was not for people accepting their differences and sitting around the same table to share a meal.
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