July 17, 2012

What I Ate in Zambia

First off, sorry for my absenteeism over the past week and a half!  As I mentioned in my last post, I was at a workshop in Lusaka, Zambia which kept me very busy.  It was fun being able to try some new foods and not having to clean up after myself while I was there, but I'm happy to be back home now where I can make my own meals! The first thing I did when I got back was to go grocery shopping to stock up on produce and pantry supplies, and I spent some time in the kitchen yesterday trying out a couple of recipes. 

Before I get back to my regular recipe posts though, I thought I would share some of the highlights of the food I ate in Zambia.

I was actually surprised to find that the majority of the restaurants and food options in the city were Western foods.  It wasn't difficult to find things like french fries, burgers, and cake or ice cream for dessert, and I found that many of the dishes didn't have that much spice to them. Although I should add that due to our busy schedule, most of our meals were just eaten at our hotel buffet, so I didn't get much of an opportunity to try the traditional local foods.

The one local food that I did get to eat a lot of was called nshima. Nshima is the staple food of certain African countries including Zambia, and its basically a thick, fluffy cornmeal mixture that is eaten with a gravy sauce and either a meat or vegetable side dish.

It wasn't very photogenic, but here's a picture of the nshima with red tomato gravy and an okra side dish (I've always avoided okra, but I actually really liked it prepared this way!), and I also ate versions of it with cooked cabbage.  It's a good thing I liked nshima so much because it was often the only vegetarian option for me, so I ate it at least once or twice a day while I was there!

Besides the nshima, some of the other Zambian specialties that were often served included more corn-based dishes like a plain maize porridge and whole hominy kernels (one of my favourite dishes that I tried was hominy in peanut sauce), and other vegetables like pumpkin and sweet potato - which was quite different than the sweet potatoes we have here at home (theirs are a bit firmer and more yellow in colour, with a slightly different taste).

For breakfast, I would sometimes mix the pumpkin with my oats, which was very filling!

Other than the oats, my breakfast would usually consist of toast (which I would spread with a tasty gooseberry jam), yogurt, lots of fresh fruit, and sometimes rice or noodles - whichever was available that day.

I usually just added muesli to my yogurt, but the cereal bar had lots of other options, including different kinds of nuts, seeds and dried fruit:

They also had a couple of salads featured daily.  Here are two that I tried - a pumpkin salad with a strange flavour that I wasn't too fond of, and a nice halloumi salad (I was suprised to find halloumi cheese there!).

There were also plenty of non-vegetarian options available for breakfast - most of which were standard Western breakfast fare like bacon and sausages. One day there was a more unusual dish that I definitely steered clear of - crocodile patties!

Even though I didn't try the crocodile meat, my favourite thing at our daily breakfast buffet was a crocodile in another form - this cute little guy made out of bread and toothpicks!  (Don't worry, he was for display only so nobody could eat him!)

Along with our breakfast, we also ate most of our dinners at the same hotel buffet. My typical meal would consist of a salad course, soup course, and whichever vegetarian main dishes were offered.

Here's a selection of appetizers and salads that I had one night - a halloumi and chili salad on the left, avocado spring rolls, and a Greek feta salad:

And of course, I couldn't help sampling some of the desserts that were on offer each night.  There was usually a selection of cakes, cheesecake, and puddings, as well as fruit salad. Here's a sample of some of my choices during the week - on the left is a baked cheesecake with a honey mousse, and on the right is a caramelized banana and a custard cup:

We did manage to eat outside of our hotel on one night, when we went to one of the nearby shopping areas and chose an Afghani restaurant to eat at.  I ordered a creamy paneer and vegetable dish that had some unique spices which made it different from the Indian paneer dishes I am used to. It was a nice change from the buffet!

Our lunches every day were served at a small hotel where our workshop was held.  They were served buffet style, including a mixture of vegetable and meat dishes.  Since I was the only vegetarian out of the 60 or so people there, the chef would prepare a special plate just for me!

Here's an example of what most of my lunches looked like - either rice or nshima with a vegetable medley and a side salad:

And lastly, I had to share this locally produced drink that I tried - a non-alcoholic ginger beer.  I'm not a big soda drinker, but I loved this drink! It had a nice bite from the ginger and was very refreshing after being out in the hot sun.  I'll have to get my hands on some more ginger beer in Canada - if anyone has a brand that they recommend, please let me know!

Overall, it was a busy but successful week!  The people that we met were all so friendly and welcoming, and the city was actually pretty modern, which made it easier to settle into. It's too bad that I didn't get any extra time to see more of the country, but now that I've had a small taste of Africa, I'd love to go back again!

I'll be back again in a few days with a new recipe!


  1. It all looks good, and even though you didn't get to venture out of your hotel much, you still got to try a few new and interesting things! The nshima looks pretty plain but when covered in a sauce I'm sure it's good!

    1. Yes, the nshima was extremely plain on its own so I always ate it with plenty of sauce and vegetables!

  2. So excited to read this post--I always nerd out over seeing what other vegetarians eat when they travel. :D And it's so funny that you got Afghani food in Zambia! I love Afghani food, especially the bread. Yum.

    I don't know if they have it in Canada, but there's a brand of ginger ale here called Blenheim that's REALLY spicy. If you like ginger, you'll love it! And if you have a Jamaican market anywhere near you, they usually sell spicy ginger beer too.

    1. Haha...It actually seemed easier to find food from other cultures than it was to find authentic Zambian food!
      Thanks for the tips on the ginger ale and ginger beer - I love anything with a spicy ginger kick, so I'll keep my eye out for Blenheim!

  3. wow.. lots of fun travel! the nshima with all the sauce and veggies sounds like a good option. ginger beer.. hmm that too tingling ginger beer :)

    1. Haha...I don't think I even made the connection that it was called Tingling ginger beer! I guess it did tingle a bit!

  4. Oh my goodness...that crocodile!!! :)

    Love the photos. So glad you were able to try so many fun foods!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad I got to try different things too, although it would have been nice to go to one of the local restaurants!

  5. What a great trip, I knwo the Buffet would probably have gotten old for me and woudl have had a blast at the Afgahni restaurant - thanks for Sharing!

  6. Hi, your website so cute ,many thanks
    Warm Regards from Turkey



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