Big in Africa: Bizarre foods from across the continent

This month, Big in Japan is on vacation in Africa, and will be bringing you travel news and happenings from around this often misunderstood continent.

One of the joys of traveling is sampling the local cuisine, even if it pushes your comfort zone and makes you question whether or not it is actually edible. Indeed, appreciating food is all about culture and perspective, which is why it is always good to travel with a hungry stomach and an open mind.

On that note, today’s posting is about some of the more bizarre foods you might come across in your travels across the continent. From stir-fried creepy crawlies to ostrich-egg omelets, Africa has its fair share of culinary oddities.

1) Ugal
i One of the first foods you’re likely to encounter on the continent is a boiled cornmeal mush that goes by many names including ugali, pap and sadza. While the taste is not unlike really bland mashed potatoes, it will sit in your stomach like a brick, which is why it comprises the bulk of most African diets. Ugali is anything but gourmet, but it is finger-licking good fun, especially since the food acts as its own utensil. Grab a gob and dig into the accompanying sauce!

2) Antelope jerky Something of a South African speciality, biltong is jerky made from wild antelopes such as springbok, oryx and kudu. Although the idea of eating Africa’s most majestic herbivores might be off-putting to some, antelope jerky is seriously delicious stuff, especially when it’s spiced up with peppercorns and hot sauce. Assuming you don’t have high-blood pressure and can overlook the high sodium content, biltong is relatively fat-free and decidedly Atkins friendly.

3) Ostrich egg omelets A single ostrich egg can weigh more than 3 pounds, which is one mighty omelet if you want a hearty breakfast to start your day. If you’re watching your cholesterol, you might want to share the meal with a few friends though as no right-minded person should eat a whole ostrich egg omelet by themselves. After all, it is really is hard to find a frying pan big enough to cook up this monster, let alone a whisk big enough to scramble the yolk.

4) Mopane A major protein source for rural Africans, mopane are sluggish caterpillars that are as colorful as they are delicious. Although you first need to de-spine them and dry them in the sun, they taste something like greasy potato chips, and are best when served up with curry sauce. Of course, mopane worms aren’t chips, but caterpillars – big, honkin’ caterpillars.

5) Termites Continuing on the insect theme, don’t miss the chance to snack on termites, which also serve as a major source of protein for rual Africans. With that said, it’s worth pointing out that termites’ jaws are seriously strong, so best to either bite their heads off quickly or stir-fry them dead before tucking into a few dozen.

Chakula kitamu sana! (That was delicious!)

** All images courtesy of the WikiCommons Media Project **