Maize meal is a dietary staple for African people. It is eaten in a broad variety of dishes and can be a powder, a baked cake or a hard shell and it is included in just about every meal. With hundreds of ways to eat this hearty food, those who take an African safari will certainly want to develop a taste for this versatile grain, and may even find themselves adopting it into home cooking when they return!
Traditionally hand-ground with a mortar and pestle and then cooked over an open fire, in the modern era, maize meal is usually picked up at the grocery store and cooked on the stove or in the microwave. Connoisseurs of the grain, however, still swear by the open flame method. They claim that there is a smoky flavor added to this method which cannot be beaten. When cooked it is also called pap, and is eaten all over the continent.
A very basic and traditional dish, sour porridge mixes sour milk with maize meal and is often eaten cold on hot days. It is also important to note that the term “sour milk” in this term isn’t the rotten curdled variety we in the West think of. Since milk in Africa is non-pasteurized and whole, the taste and texture is much more like yogurt.
This vegetable sauce is very popular in South Africa. It is hot and spicy and the recipe seems to have as many variations as there are people in the nation. In general, however, it combines garlic, onion, tomato, curry powder and chili peppers. Some add vegetables or beans to the mix as well. The sauce is then used to cover maize balls—a sort of South African dumpling-and-sauce combination.
Shisa Nyama is an African barbecue which is a social tradition throughout the continent. As with American barbecue the recipes differ from place to place, but it can be made with chicken, beef, sausage or even goat covered in spicy sauce and served with a healthy portion of pap.
Wyle-E-Coyote would be in heaven, eating up a healthy portion of this dish from Zimbabwe. It’s actually made from free-range chicken rather than actual roadrunners, though. It is a chicken-tomato stew which also mixes paprika, chili, garlic and onion and is served with maize meal cakes called sadza that are used to mop up the sauce while eating.
In Mozambique, pap is known as xima and it is a popular combination with the side dish that is known as matapa. Matapa combines peanuts, garlic, cassava leaves and coconut milk. It is often served with seafood, where the xima is an excellent means of soaking up the delicious sauce.
These are just a few of the amazing ways maize meal is consumed in Africa. If you’re ready to develop a taste for this versatile and delicious food staple, check out our options for African safari holidays and get in touch to book your trip today!
Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa