Riri’s guide to Zambia’s favourite and foods and snacks. If you’re visiting, be sure to try all of these!
Nshima is a starchy food made from maize and water, resembling the look and feel of mash potato. It is a staple dish in Zambia as it is cheap and readily available. It is usually eaten with a few sides, often known as relishes. Side dishes can include sweet potato leaves, okra, meats and a tomato based relish sauces. It is usually eaten at lunch/dinner, but Nshima can be made up to be thinner to resemble porridge which can be enjoyed for breakfast with some sugar or honey.
Biltong is a form of dried, cured meat that made its way to Zambia from South Africa. It is usually made from beef, but the snack can be made from pork, poultry and even ostrich. Seasonings can include black pepper, salt, vinegar and coriander for a preferred flavour. It resembles American Jerky, but the main difference is that it’s much less sweeter. The produce can have different textures, ranging from dry to medium to moist. Like wise, it can be made very lean or fatty which are both enjoyed by many people.
The Tanganyika Sardine, commonly known as Kapenta in Zambia and Zimbabwe. It originates from Lake Tanganyika, the water which divides Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Burundi. This small freshwater fish is usually sun-dried for one day on a clean surface such as rocks or nets, but it can also be sold fresh and frozen. Due to it being cheap and high in nutrients, it is a key protein source among the less fortunate, but still enjoyed by all. It is commonly ate with Nshima or in a stew.
Crocodile meat is sold in Zambia and other southern African countries quite often. It is usually cooked in a BBQ, or a brai as Africans call it, or a stew in a potjie pot. It is cut in many different ways including steaks, burgers, sausages and even ribs. The tender meat is low in fat and cholesterol yet high in protein and tastes like what the crocodile was fed in its earlier life, which is usually chicken or pork. The crocodile meat I tasted was just like chicken!
A koeksister is a sweet tooth’s dream snack. Again, it originates from South Africa but it is just as popular in Zambia. The plaited dough is deep-fried until golden and then it’s infused in ice-cold syrup. Variations include being dipped in honey or flavoured syrups such as lemon or cinnamon. It is very sticky to eat but it sure cools you down in the Zambian heat. It is easiest recipe on this page to replicate, I have made them plenty of times to share my Zambian experiences with friends and family.
6. African Custard Apple
Also known as the Wild Custard Apple, this fruit is native to African and enjoyed in most western and southern countries. The common fruit tastes like custard, and is known to improve nutrition, and keeps Zambian farmer’s in business as they are a staple food. The fruit is unheard of outside of the continent but I have been able to find it in UK supermarkets. It is available in Harrods and also Asda when they are in season, but the imported fruits are much smaller and tasteless from where they originate!