Culinary journey through Katutura

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Staff Writer THALEFANG CHARLES reports of the culinary delights of a recent trip to Namibia where he gorged on the famous kapana from the streets of Katutura and the nausea of eating medium-rare crocodile meat

I am not a foodie but I am extremely curious. So when in a foreign place I curiously sample various local cuisines. My maxim when I am on the road is, ‘eat local, drink local, do local’.  That is why I was savouring the local culinary delights from the narrow streets of Katutura, the largest township in Windhoek, Namibia while there recently.

First stop was at Katutura Market, where our guide Rickey Tjijenda of Ricma Safaris said it is where dozens of imbibers converge every morning-after, to wrestle their hangover with some fresh meat called kapana.

Kapana is the Nambian version of braai or chesanyama but with its own unique flavour.  At the market, only fresh meat is sold. Apparently Windhoek City Council authorities conduct three inspections everyday to make sure that the meat is fresh and avoid food poisoning.


Kapana is big business.  There are raw meat dealers who procure fresh meat everyday with an aim to sell out before close of business. They sell to the cooks who have braai-stands at the market. There are also the wood sellers who supply the cooks with braai wood to start the fire. Then there are the vegetable supplies that make the best salsa that goes well with the meat.

Cooks braai the meat while the client is waiting and when ready, it is cut in small cubes and eaten from the braai stand.  Spice is conveniently placed next to the braai stand for customers to dip their meat in the spice mixture. The eaters gorge the meat while trading drunk stories from the previous night. That is why Saturday and Sunday mornings are the busiest times.

From kapana market, we proceeded to the famous Xwama Traditional Restaurant.  The restaurant is set in a cultural village and it serves Oshiwambo traditional home meals. Since its official opening by Nambia’s president Hifikepunye Pohamba in May 29, 2013 it draws lots of tourists who want to sample local dishes. Guests are greeted by smiling waitresses wearing the bright purple Oshiwambo traditional dresses.  There are signboards declaring that, “There is no place just like this place anywhere this place so this must be the place”. For starters we were served kapana with small sweet phaphatha and salsa. The main course was a buffet dished from the black three-legged pots.

The Mahangu porridge or oshifima is served with chicken called ondjuhwa yoshiwambo popularly known as ‘marathon chicken’. There is also tripe called omatangara, ekaka which is wild spinach and bean soup known as oshingali. Guests are served on wooden plates that somehow add the timber flavour to the food.

The rather bizarre is the omotseweshikombo (sheep head) also popularly called ‘smiley’. The head is cooked and served intact. The waiter brought our ‘smiley’, which was black sheep’s head midway through our main course. We stopped eating and started photographing the ‘smiley’. It was not the prettiest sheep smile but it made for great pictures. Instagram got excited and curious because from the pictures, it looked unpalatable but the taste was delicious. It was overcooked, making it yummy and succulent.

After the buffet, the waitresses danced the traditional Oshiwambo for us where they flipped their dresses at times revealing their thighs to the delight of the men in the audience.

Desert arrived in small steel baby cups but I let pass the desert and opted for a cold Windhoek beer because the traditional brew called omalodu was not available. But the best beer in Windhoek is the Windhoek Draft at the legendary Joes’ Beerhouse. This international bar that houses the vast junk scraps ever put under one bar is very popular with tourists.

The Windhoek Draft here feels thick and fresh because it is new from the brewery. Apparently most German tourists, who frequent their former African colony, usually make their first stop at Joe’s Beerhouse straight from the airport. At Joe’s Beerhouse I decided to go wild with the food. I ordered the tourist favourite, Bushman Sosaite, which is a mini platter of game meat. It comprises of crocodile, zebra, kudu, oryx and springbok served with mashed potatoes, salad together with mango-chilli sauce. I asked for a well done, but the waiter advised that game meat is better served medium-rare. So medium-rare it was. But it turned out to be bad advice as the taste was not to my liking.

The crocodile meat, which I discovered that it was white like chicken, appeared succulent from the plate so I started with it. It felt weird eating my mother’s totem. After a few bites onto the medium rare crocodile meat, the raw fat nearly made me vomit.  Were it not for the Windhoek Draft, which I quickly gulped to kill the nausea, the croc would have come out.

The zebra, kudu, oryx and springbok went down fine. Later when I told the waiter that ‘medim rare’ was a big mistake, he conceded that he has never eaten those wild animals, but he thought since the game meat is usually dry he reckoned that ‘medium rare’ is the best option.  But I concluded, medium rare or no medium rare, game meat is just overrated.

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