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Taboo or Delicacy: 6 peculiar meals from across Africa

Across the continent of Africa there are a plethora of different cuisines that for many are a staple of a culture, but for others are a unique treat that only thrive in their respective regions. Different regions and some of the unique delicacies at least to foreigners are going to be looked at. Some are taboos and downright strange while others are not. Let’s embark on a culinary adventure and see what we can dig, cook, or fry up across Africa.

1 • Mopane Worm- Southern Africa


By Ling Symon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Originating in Southeastern Africa from Zimbabwe to South Africa, the mopane worm is a special treat that is best served fried, dried or roasted. Despite its name, it is actually a caterpillar and member of the emperor moth family. It is found in the mopane tree which is its common source of food. The mopane worm itself has been a main source of protein for the Tsonga, Venda and Pedi peoples for generations. Containing about 60% protein the mopane worm is an easy catch and quick meal that has been compared to barbecue chicken. This delicacy is most commonly prepared by washing the worm and boiling them for about 10 minutes to swell them up and then they’re salted and baked for 15 minutes. Other techniques involve boiling the caterpillar and letting it dry out in the sun or roasting it over fire.

2 • Cow’s Blood- Eastern Africa

Probably one of the most common & unique delicacies is Maasai’s thirst for cows blood. Starting at a young age Maasai children are given the blood from cows mixed with their milk. This will be their meal 3 times a day until they are strong enough to roam the Savannah to pick fruit and hunt with the older Maasai. Another way the Maasai have been known to utilize cow’s blood is by boiling and letting it harden. Once it has solidified they eat it. The Maasai utilize drinking cow’s blood for many traditions such as post circumcision and birth rituals as well as using it as remedy for illness.


Maasai elders tell a story of “Enkai” the Maasai god of the sun, rain, love and fertility. In this story, Enkai left the realm of man and a cow spoke to him saying that it must drink its blood in order to survive. He would do this by tying a knot around the neck of the cow and then puncturing to drain some of the blood then tightening the knot to stop the bleeding, so the cow does not die. The cow told him how to utilize the blood and milk as their diet for protein and fat. This has been their tradition for many generations and continues to this day.

3 • Ackee Plant- Western Africa


The ackee plant is a strange delicacy coming from western Africa. This plant is actually a fruit that when eaten prematurely is poisonous. What happens when it’s eaten before it’s ripe? Toxic Hypoglycemic Syndrome that causes vomiting, hypoglycemia, which causes depletion of blood sugar in the body, coma and in certain circumstances, death. It takes eight weeks to mature fully where the fruit changes from green to red. The fruit will ripen and expose the seeds and cream colored arils, which is part of the fruit that covers the seed and is the edible portion of the plant. Due to its toxicity, this plant has strict import regulations and is most commonly found in canned form.
This fruit is prepared by extracting the arils and boiling them then mixing with fish and spices, such as chili, onion and tomato. The arils of the plant by themselves are a good source of protein and fat.

4• Pastilla- Northern Africa

A popular Moroccan dish from the day of old is a dish known as Pastilla. This dish is an almond and avian pie that can be made with many different types of birds, but the breed that makes this dish unique uses a particular type called squab. Squab is the common domestic pigeon that is under 4 weeks old. The dish comes from a mix of cultures, mainly from the Arabian empire with influence from Andalusia.

The dish is prepared by cooking the squab in a frying pan with various other ingredients such as onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, almonds and coriander. After that is all cooked and ready, the meat and vegetable mixture from the squab is placed in film bread and baked for 20 minutes. Nowadays, squab can be hard to come by, so it is often substituted with chicken or quail.

5• Giant Bullfrog- Southwestern Africa

 Laurens /flickr

Laurens /flickr

This next strange and dangerous delicacy on the list is from Namibia. The giant Namibian bullfrog is a delicacy that if eaten in its entirety at the wrong time can cause great distress to the human body. Although the legs of frogs is a common delicacy in Europe and other parts of the world this particular frog has no parts that go to waste. To add to the uniqueness of this delicacy, it should be pointed out that this species is also labelled as endangered. The timing to eat one of these large amphibians is dependent on their mating season and the “third rain” in Namibian meteorological cycles. If eaten before these time the levels of toxins in the skin and organs of the bullfrog will cause what is called “Oshiketakata” kidney failure, burning sensation while urinating and possibly death.

6 • Chitoum- Western Africa

The Chitoum is a mid-day snack eaten mainly in western Africa from the Ivory Coast. It is a small, dark beetle that is gathered, gutted, disemboweled and fried. Other ways of enjoying Chitoum are to bake it instead of frying it, but as long as it is gutted. It is not known if the guts are dangerous to ingest, but it is always recommended to gut and toss the innards away. It is said to taste better than locusts and grasshoppers, but that of course would depend on the person.

[Header image]–   By ComQuat (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

– Osseo-Asare, Fran. Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2005. Print
– Deutsch, Jonathan, and Natalya Murakhver. They Eat That? A Cultural Encyclopedia of Weird and Exotic Food from around the World. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2012. Print.
– Bretherton, Caroline, and Jane Bamforth. Pies: Sweet and Savory. London: DK, 2013. Print.
– Meikuaya, Wilson, Susan McClelland, and Jackson Ntirkana. The Last Maasai Warriors: An Autobiography. Print.

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