Typical Namibian cuisine is heavily influenced by the country’s history, cultures, climate and environment. This is most evident in the influences of traditional German and South African dishes as well as the use of meat, game and seafood.
Staple foods include corn porridge and meat or fish stews. Dishes often include pasta, rice and potatoes; while vegetables include tomatoes, cabbage, celery and beans. Fruits which are found abundantly throughout Namibia include oranges, bananas, mandarins, pineapples, kiwis, and avocados; dried fruit is a particular favourite. Popular meat choices include beef, lamb, pork, chicken, ostrich, game (kudu, springbok and gemsbok) and cured or smoked ham. More adventurous local meats include goat, bush rat, and fried caterpillars known as omanugu or mopane worms and often cooked with chilli and onion.
Corn occurs most frequently in the south of Namibia where it is used in the making of bread, most often accompanied by fish. As a result of the hot, dry climate and desert conditions in most parts, couscous has become popular, as well as peanuts. The weather has also ensured that outdoor cooking has become the norm, and is most frequently done in the form of ‘braais’ and ‘potjiekos’ stews. Spices and herbs are essential to Namibian food and cooking techniques have stemmed from German and French cooking styles. Dishes are generally presented in visually attractive ways and make use of extensive colours.
The direct access to the sea has given rise to an extensive fishing industry which brings in seafood including vast arrays of fish, mussels, oysters, squid and shellfish.
There are a number of festivals and national holidays in Namibia and traditional food forms an important part of most of them. Namibia’s national day is the 21 March and the air is usually filled with the smoke and smell of braai fires and bubbling potjie pots. Traditional dishes are usually served on Worker’s Day, Cassinga Day, Ascension Day, Africa Day, Heroes’ Day, Women’s Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Frequent dishes include varieties of stews with snacks of biltong, brotchen and landjäger, which is a smoked pork and beef sausage. Rauchfleisch is a beautiful smoked meat which is enjoyed throughout Namibia.
For those with a sweeter tooth, the German influence is seen extensively in the variety of breads, cakes and pastries used in Namibian food; and for the thirsty, Namibia has a big German brewing tradition and its national drink is Tafel Lager and the ever popular Windhoek Lager.
Namibian food definitely has a unique flavour and look and is predominantly prepared by the woman of the household. However, tourists are not often exposed to it as most restaurants favour a typically European style – although hints of Namibian influence often crop-up in dishes, which is most often preferred. One thing that can be guaranteed is the freshness and abundance of food products.
Traditional Namibian foods include:
- eedingu (dried meat, carrots and green beans);
- kapana (meat);
- mealie pap (porridge);
- omanugu (mopane worms);
- oshifima (millet);
- oshifima ne vanda (millet with meat);
- oshiwambo (spinach and beef)