Zimbabwe national cuisine

History

Zimbabwean cuisine is the national cuisine of the state of Zimbabwe, located in South Africa. Zimbabwe (zihm-BAHB-way) literally means “Stone House. The name comes from the 800-year-old stone ruins left by the Shona people. Descendants of the Shona people make up 77% of the current population of Zimbabwe, the remaining 18% are Ndebele.

The main product of the Zimbabwean cuisine is corn, which is used in various dishes. Food in Zimbabwe has, for the most part, remained traditionally African, but British colonization certainly left its mark. Common British spices, bread, sugar, and tea have become part of everyday life in Zimbabwe. Despite its traditional roots, food in Zimbabwe is popular, and both local and international cuisines are available.

Like many other African countries, Zimbabwe’s cuisine is based on a few basic foods.

Characteristic foods

Plant-based foods
The traditional foods of Zimbabwean cuisine are corn, beans, cucumbers, avocados, yams, papaya, and pumpkins.

In the 16th century, Portuguese traders brought peanut crops to Zimbabwe, making peanuts an important ingredient in many dishes.

Meat and fish

Meat is eaten only on special occasions. Weddings and births are usually accompanied by meat dishes. Beef, gazelle, kudu (big antelope), and goat meat are prepared. You can also find meat of warthog and crocodile.

Quite popular is the fish capenta, a small fish, about 10 cm in length, it is also called Tanganyika sardine. Capenta is usually sun dried with or without salt. In Zimbabwe, dried capelin is fried with onions, tomatoes, and peanut powder. Eaten traditionally with sadza.

Dairy Products

Fermentation is the oldest method of preserving milk. In the past, unpasteurized milk was left to ferment naturally. With the development of modern technology, specific lactic acid-producing microorganisms began to be added to carry out fermentation under controlled conditions. In this way fermented products with excellent nutritional, physical, chemical and sanitary qualities are produced.

Modern fermented products such as yogurt and various types of cheese can be found in Zimbabwe. However, the rural population still squeezes milk using traditional methods. Fresh unpasteurized cow’s milk is kept at room temperature in a clay pot, loosely covered with a plate. This allows the microorganisms in the milk, in the pot, and in the surrounding air to ferment the milk. Fermentation lasts 1 to 2 days, depending on the ambient temperature. Fermented milk is not stored in the refrigerator and has an estimated shelf life of 3 days.

Spices

Spices and herbs brought to Zimbabwe during British colonization blended with traditional African cuisine, giving Zimbabwean cuisine a distinctive, refined taste unique to the rest of Africa.

Peanuts and peanut butter are present in most Zimbabwean dishes.

Traditional dishes

  • Bread
  • Chimodho is a homemade corn bread traditional to Zimbabwean cuisine. Also known as Mupotohayi.

Soups

  • Nhedzi – Soup made from forest mushrooms.

The main dishes

The main national dish of Zimbabwe is Sadza, which is similar to this dish in Zambian cuisine called Nshima.

  • Sadza is a corn porridge served at all meals. Sadza may be served alone or with side dishes such as stewed vegetables or meat. One of the most popular dishes in Zimbabwe.
  • Bota, a thick porridge made from a mixture of corn flour and water, popular in Zimbabwe. It is usually flavored with butter or peanut butter and eaten for breakfast.
  • Boerewors, a long sausage made of beef or, less frequently, pork, often with a tangy flavor. It is usually cooked on the grill.
  • Mutakura – a traditional Zimbabwean dish made from a mixture of beans and nuts.
  • Dovi is a traditional stew of peanut butter and meat or vegetables.
  • Nyama – Beef stew with vegetables.

Salads and appetizers

Biltong – A type of jerky prepared by hanging pieces of spicy raw meat to dry in the shade. It is a popular snack in Zimbabwe.

  • Biltong – A type of jerky prepared by hanging pieces of spicy raw meat to dry in the shade. It is a popular snack in Zimbabwe.
  • Maputi – fried corn kernels, similar to popcorn.
  • Mopane caterpillars – dried larvae eaten as a snack. Alternatively, mopane caterpillars are soaked and then fried until crispy. They are also cooked with onions, tomatoes and spices and then served with sadza. Mopane caterpillars are highly prized and are a good source of protein.
  • Maputi – fried corn kernels, similar to popcorn.
  • Mopane caterpillars – dried larvae eaten as a snack. Alternatively, mopane caterpillars are soaked and then fried until crispy. They are also cooked with onions, tomatoes and spices and then served with sadza. Mopane caterpillars are highly prized and are a good source of protein.

Desserts

Mapopo candy, a candy made from candied papaya.

Drinks

  • Mukaka wakakora, a drink made from sour milk, also known as lacto.
  • Mazoe, Zimbabwe’s favorite orange drink made from natural fruit.

Alcohol


  • Beer is Zimbabwe’s most popular alcoholic drink.
  • Zambezi is considered Zimbabwe’s national beer.
  • Whawha, a traditional beer made from corn.
  • Rock shandy – A refreshing drink that is a mixture of lemonade, sparkling water and a bitter made from herbs and plant extracts.

Serving and Etiquette

Because Zimbabwe was a British colony, they adopted some English habits. For example, most people in Zimbabwe have porridge for breakfast and traditional afternoon tea at 10 o’clock.

For lunch they usually eat either leftovers from the evening meal or freshly cooked sadza or sandwiches (these are common in the cities). After lunch at 4 p.m. it is time for afternoon tea, which is served before dinner.

Before eating, a dish of water is placed on the dining table so that diners can wash their hands. Rudyi is a word that means in Shona the right hand, or literally, “the hand that is used for eating.”

Even if one is left-handed, it is considered impolite to eat with the left hand. In Zimbabwe it is customary to sit on the floor in a circle and eat from the same bowl. This eating practice is common here, so guests must eat with others accordingly.

Older children learn to eat at the same rate as their younger siblings so that they do not eat too much or too quickly, so that everyone has an appropriate portion.

Guests, however, are served food by their hosts. It is considered polite to leave a small amount of food on the plate to show that you have had more than enough.

Wooden plates and spoons are used along with Western dishes. In some rural areas of Zimbabwe, people eat with their fingers. When eating sadza, it is customary in Zimbabwe to wash your hands first and then pinch off a piece with your right hand, twist it into a ball in the palm of your hand, then eat it.

There are also some food taboos in Zimbabwe. For example, the Engdubele people do not recommend eating corn out of season. Many ethnic groups do not eat animals or plants that are associated with their surnames.

For example, if the last name is Nkomo (meaning cattle, cows, or oxen), they should not eat beef.

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