Botswana and all its flavours & tastes
Travelling to Botswana is an experience like no other and is enhanced by its exquisite foods. Here is a guide to some of the “must eat meals” that Botswana has to offer.
Seswaa is a traditional meat dish of Botswana, made of beef, goat, chicken or lamb meat. The fatty meat is generally boiled together with onion and pepper until tender, “Just enough salt” is added and then the meat is shredded or pounded. It is often served with polenta, pap (maize meal) or sorghum meal porridge. This dish of shredded and pounded meat is usually eaten at important events, prepared in traditional three-legged pots over an open fire. The men are usually put in charge of making this dish as it involves a bit of muscle for all the pounding once the beef is cooked.
Almost every braai meal (barbeque) in Southern Africa will be accompanied by pap, a word taken from the Dutch meaning ‘porridge’. It may be soft and smooth (slap pap), dry and crumbly (phutu pap) or a thick consistency (stywe pap). It is made from local maize meal (ground maize) and is a staple food for many inhabitants. Maize meal is inexpensive so it is often combined with vegetables for more nutrition, or eaten as a breakfast food mixed with milk, butter and sugar or with Maas (fermented milk). Phutu pap is usually served with a savoury sauce that includes tomato, onions and mushrooms.
Morogo is a side dish served with pap that combines at least three different dark green leafy vegetables, most often including pumpkin leaves. It is also known as wild or African spinach. It is slightly more bitter than ordinary spinach and an acquired taste for some people. It is an important source of protein and is often eaten by a substitute for meat. Combined with pap it is a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and iron. Morogo is either eaten plain or with a combination of onions, tomatoes and lots of butter.
4. Goat meat stew
If you are wondering what goat meat tastes like, it is a lot like lamb. If the thought of eating it puts you off, don’t dismiss it because, combined with a combination of carrots, potatoes, peas and tomatoes, it is delicious. It is probably one of the most popular meats in Southern Africa and very good for you as it is lean, with less saturated fat, calories and cholesterol than beef. There are many ways to prepare goat meat but slow and long in a stew makes it full of flavour and tender. If it tastes too ‘gamey’, you’ve probably been served an ‘old’ goat.
5. Braai meat
If you are travelling through Southern Africa, you need to get familiar with the traditional braai (barbeque). It is simply cooking outside over hot coals in either a weber or at a fire pit. It is an entrenched tradition and a very sociable occasion. If you are lucky to be in the company of a fanatical braai master, you will witness an obsessive attention to detail. Almost anything goes onto a braai – meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables and even fruit – but the most popular options are boerewors, steak and lamb chops. Boerewors translated is ‘farmer’s sausage’; 90% is meat (beef, lamb or pork) and 10% is a delicious combination of salt, pepper and local spices. Braai meat is almost always served with a relish on the side made of onions, tomato and garlic.
You’ve got to try this traditional dish that is made using fried dough bread. It’s delicious with syrup, honey or jam but it is best eaten as a meal, filled with curried mince (ground beef). Vetkoek means ‘fat cake’ and is similar in shape to a doughnut but without the hole. It is made from flour, salt and yeast which is rolled into a ball and then deep fried. Something similar, using deep-fried dough, is a koeksister. This version is made by plaiting long strips of dough and coating it in sticky, sweet syrup.
Dishes using beans often include an African legume called ditloo, or they go by their many other names; nyimo beans, jubo beans, Bambara ground nuts or tindluwa. Call them what you like, they are delicious. They are a great source of nutrition for most African families and have been eaten for generations as either a main meal or a tasty snack. They are soaked overnight to firstly remove their gas, which causes flatulence, and to make it easier and quicker to cook them. The dry beans are often ground into a fine powder and added to porridge.
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