A Taste of Mama Africa
// June 14th, 2011 // South Africa
Cape Town is an anomaly in Africa. The scenery, architecture, infrastructure, and world-class dining set it apart from its neighbors. I traveled for a couple of days with a Dutch girl from my hostel in Cape Town, and we both really wanted to dine one night at Mama Africa in the heart of the city. It’s super touristy and for good reason; it has good local food and excellent musical entertainment. The place is so crowded on a nightly basis, that when we dropped in without reservations for a late dinner during a week night, we were told the restaurant was completely booked… ‘But,’ they said, ‘you can sit at the bar if you’d like.’ This is what I’d call a fortunate mishap. If we had made reservations, we most likely would never have had as good of seats. We were right there on the front row for the entertainment by being at the bar, and it was a happy accident.
The entertainment is a group of seven or eight locals (I honestly can’t remember the number now) who play an array of instruments. Most of it was local music, but they did some renditions of more well-known songs. A $1 fee per person is added to your bill to cover the entertainment which is a total bargain.
I decided to order a dish called Zimbabwean Dovi.
Though I had never had Zimbabwe food, the chicken and vegetables in a peanut sauce served over rice sounded delicious. And, it was! I loved this dish so much that when I landed in Portland for my final RTW stop, I made it for my friends. I hunted for a good recipe… the one I used was pretty good but I think lacking a bit in the seasoning department. You can of course search for a good dovi recipe from a Zimbabwe restaurant but I will include one below (and no, I can’t recall which one I used so this is just an example).
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 chicken, cut into pieces (optional)
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 3 chopped tomatoes, blanched and skins removed
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 fresh pepper (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 cup creamy natural peanut butter
- ½ pound fresh spinach, or 1 package frozen spinach
Heat the oil, brown the chicken for about 10 minutes in a stew pot. Chicken can be used with or without skin, with or without bones. The skin and bones add more flavor. (Note: I used skinless chicken breasts) Add the onions with the seasonings, allow to sauté for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of water, the mashed or chopped tomatoes, and the peanut butter. Stir intermittently until chicken is cooked for about 20 minutes. Lastly, add spinach and cook for another 5 minutes or sauté spinach separately and serve separately. Serve hot over rice.
If cooking without the chicken, follow the same process, use less seasonings and less water.
Serves 6 to 8.
Here’s the photo from when I made it in Portland:
Nightlife in the Area
The atmosphere, food, and most of all the music make Mama Africa a must-eat if visiting Cape Town. It is on Long Street, so it is easy to hit up the popular bars in the area. We ended up at a cool open-mic night afterwards before switching to an Irish Bar where the performer was on South Africa’s American Idol. The whole night was a memorable evening in South Africa with a fellow traveler.
And, should you be interested in drinking, I recommend Savanna Dry if you like cider. If you’re looking for shots, try the Springbok… it warrants a post of its own as the layered contents make for a neat looking and tasty shot.