Text & Photographs Christie Keulder
Text & Photographs Christie Keulder
A few weeks ago I enlisted a colleague and friend as my wingman and guide for a trip to a few of Katutura’s food markets. I wanted to explore the ingredients and try some of the local produce.
Let me point out that unlike many of the African markets I have visited elsewhere, Windhoek’s markets are well regulated and as a result quite clean.
Our first market was Olyeeta Open Market. Here I met Amelia who makes Oshikundu and sells the dry ingredients of this nutritious traditional drink: sorghum, mahangu (millet) and mahangu husks. She also offers dried Ombidi, a type of wild spinach that grows around the fields in northern Namibia. Amelia says she only stocks traditional mahangu which she obtains from suppliers in the North, some 800 km away.
On the way back to the car I noticed a young man at the kapana (strips of grilled meat) stands who dipped his meat into a little bowl with a greenish fluid before eating it. I got interested. “What is that?” I asked Veikko. “It’s bile”, he smiled. “But why?” I’d never seen anybody do this before. Ever. “Why would anyone in their right mind dip perfectly good meat into bile?” I could tell that Veikko was enjoying my perplexity. “They say it is a good cure for a hangover”, he explained. I was dumbstruck, to say the least.
I can’t vouch for the benefits of bile as a cure for a hangover, but if you are brave enough – try it and let me know. I am not trying it, that’s all I know.
The next market, Tukondjeny (meaning “let’s work hard”), was slightly larger.
A young lady walked over and started talking to me. I immediately noticed that her accent wasn’t Namibian. It turned out that she was from somewhere in Central Africa. She took me to her friend’s stall, which didn’t stock anything I am familiar with. Green leafy vegetables I have never seen. “It’s kovi”, she said. More commonly known as collard greens, the Brassica oleracea plant is related to cabbage and broccoli. The two women grow them in their backyard garden and sell freshly picked leaves for N$5 per bunch.
They also showed me dried cassava. Not grown locally, though, they get them from ‘back home’.
I asked how they source their vegetables. She just smiled and showed me the fufu they make from the dried cassava. The dried cassava is pounded to a fine powder to which water is added to form a stiff porridge. In Ghana, where fufu is a staple, they pound plantains together with the cassava.
Veikko wanted me to try grilled tripe, or matangala as it is known locally (although some pronounce it matangara).
Given that tripe is quite tough it has to be cooked for a long time before it makes its way to the grill. Therefore we had no luck with tripe. It was only mid-morning and the tripe was not ready yet.
By lunchtime we hit the last market on our list. The Oshetu Community Open Market (Oshetu meaning “it’s ours”) at the old Single Quarters. The queues at the kapana stands left no doubt that Namibians are meat eaters. Period.
And that the kapana sellers are the real tough men of the markets. Operating in teams of two or more, one is responsible for cutting and chopping the meat, while the other takes care of the grilling and selling. Salt and chilli spice are offered in empty beer cartons for the customers to dip their meat into. Do not ask these guys for extra meat or discounts. They can kill by merely looking at you.
In the end we finally found tripe and bought a few pieces. It is good, really good, especially with the chilli spice.
After sampling a “Wambo cake” made from sweet dough and baked in a tuna can, it was time to dodge the bullets of fat and splinters of bone flying from the meat cutters’ tables and go home.
Reflect, or maybe take a nap.
Namibia, we have so much to be proud of.
This article was first published in the 2015/ 2016 issue of Travel News Namibia