10 Traditional African foods to try on safari
Take a bite of culture
Although Africa hasn’t always been top of mind for foodies and epicureans, it’s slowly earning its rightful place at the culinary tourism table.
Here at Africa Travel Centre, we’re slowly seeing a shift from that ‘play-it-safe’ mindset, with travelers showing a keen interest in trying more traditional African food on safari. After all, cuisine found across Africa isn’t just about sustenance. It’s an extension of local traditions and culture, allowing you to deepen your connection to the destinations you visit and the people you meet.
Ready to tuck in? Here are 10 examples of traditional African food on safari worth prepping your palate for:
Piri-piri (also known as peri-peri) is an important part of Mozambique’s history. This iconic fiery sauce, made from African Bird’s Eye chili, reflects the intricate blend of cultures that form part of the country’s history. The best way to sample it? Generously basted over barbecued chicken, fish, or giant prawns and washed down with a crisp 2M beer.
Origin: West Africa
Fufu (pronounced ‘foo-foo’) remains one of West Africa’s most easily recognized side dishes. Starchy, smooth, and satisfying, it pairs exceptionally well with stews and soups and is made using cassava root and green plantains (giving it a slightly tart taste). In addition to Ghana, you can also tempt your tastebuds with traditional fufu in Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to name a few.
#3 Bunny chow
Origin: Durban, South Africa
Don’t skip a bunny chow if you’re passing through Durban during your next safari. Developed by Indian indentured laborers, this curry-in-a-quarter-loaf is regarded as the city’s most treasured street food. Insider’s tip: Don’t go for the ‘gourmet’ options found at upmarket restaurants, though. The best bunnies are found at local eateries dotted along the city’s hidden backroads. If you love your heat, be warned. even the mild ones could jump-start a rocket ship!
Origin: Cape Town (Western Cape), South Africa
If you’ve traveled through South Africa’s famed ‘Mother City’, chances are you’ve tucked into a hot and hearty plate of bobotie. This Cape Malay-style casserole is made using curried ground beef and finished with a thin layer of creamy egg custard. It’s the go-to dish to fill the belly and warm the heart when it’s cold in Cape Town, but here’s the recipe should you wish to attempt it yourself at home.
#5 Nyama choma
Origin: Kenya (and Tanzania)
When it comes to traditional African food on safari, this dish is tough to top. In Swahili, nyama choma directly translates to ‘barbecued meat’ and consists of marinated meat cooked over an open flame. Although goat meat is preferred, beef and chicken are also used. Generally, most African countries sport their own variation of it. For example, in South Africa, it’s referred to as shisha nyama. Meat lovers, this one’s for you!
When tucking into traditional African food on safari, don’t skip a generous helping of ugali. Considered an essential side dish throughout East Africa, this proudly African maize flour porridge is generally eaten using your hands. Although some might find it somewhat bland, it pairs exceptionally well with stews, curries, and sauces, hitting the sweet spot for vegans and vegetarians. Learn to make it yourself alongside Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o here.
Origin: South Africa
The ultimate padkos (snacks for the road), biltong has long held its reign as the king of all safari snacks. Developed by early Afrikaans settlers to preserve meat, it consists of dried cured meat and spices. Biltong can easily be found at most safari lodges and camps or any convenience store across South Africa. While some prefer it drier, others like it slightly wet and fatty. Ultimately, there’s only one way to decide, and that’s to try it for yourself.
Origin: South Africa
If you’ve already been on safari, then you’ll likely have sampled a traditional South African rusk with your morning cuppa. Back in the day, when milk was scarce, it was baked with buttermilk to help tame a strong cup of moerkoffie (murder coffee). Best described as a hard biscuit, it really shouldn’t be eaten without first dunking in a hot bevvy. Proceed with caution if you have fragile teeth.
This maize-meal porridge is a staple for many Zimbabweans and is also one of the first foods that babies are given. Similar to ugali (or pap in South Africa), Sadza is generally served with meat, relish, and leafy green veggies. If you’re feeling adventurous, sample it alongside traditional zvinyenze (lamb’s tripe) and peanut butter (yes, it’s a thing in Zim!). Or just have a chilly Zambezi Lager.
#10 Doro wot
Perhaps the most popular Ethiopian food, doro wot, is a spicy, slow-cooked chicken stew. Although adaptations of this dish can be found throughout Africa, if you do find yourself traveling through the Horn of Africa, do make a point of sitting down to sample this delectable cuisine.
Are you ready to take a bite of authentic culture?
Although traditional African food on safari generally comes with a modern twist, our team can also point you in the right direction to eateries where you can have them just as the locals do. Drop us a message, and let’s start planning.
Big Journeys Start With Small Steps
~ African Proverb