Fiery Cuisines Part 18 – Mozambique

Fiery Cuisines Part 18 – Mozambique

Andrew’s Essential Fiery Food Facts that a Pyro-Gourmaniac needs to Know

Part 24

Fiery Cuisines Part 18…… Mozambique


Located on the south-eastern coast of Africa, Mozambique has an area of 801,590 square kilometres, slightly less than the size of the state of Victoria. Mozambique is 44% coastal lowlands. The most important rivers are the Zambezi, the Limpopo, the Sabi, and the Lugenda. The most important lake is Lake Malawi.

Thick forest covers the wet regions, but the drier interior has little vegetation. As with the dense forest elsewhere in the world, Mozambique has lost 70% of its forests. Wild animals, such as elephants, buffalo, wildebeests, zebras, hippopotamuses, lions, crocodiles, and over 300 varieties of birds, roam the country. In some areas, there are problems with the purity of the water supply.

Some of the earliest inhabitants of present-day Mozambique were small groups of hunter-gatherers, often called Bushmen. These nomadic groups travelled from one place to the next in search of seasonal fruits, vegetables, roots, and seeds. To supplement their primitive diet, the groups would also follow herds of wild animals such as impala and buck, killing them with poisonous bows and arrows. Permanent settlements were never established because agriculture (cultivating land to produce crops) was not practiced.

Around A.D. 300, Bantu-speaking Africans from the north introduced the practice of agriculture to Mozambique. The Bantu, who were primarily farmers and ironworkers, migrated to present-day Mozambique in search of farmable land. Over the next several hundred years, agricultural systems were established to collectively grow maize and other grains.

Arab merchants, who arrived in sailing ships called dhows , set up some of the first trading posts in the 700s. They brought with them various items, including salt, essential in preserving foods such as meat. In 1498, a Portuguese explorer named Vasco da Gama landed at Mozambique on his voyage to India, quickly establishing Portuguese ports and introducing foodstuffs and customs to the Mozambican culture.

Ruling for nearly 500 years, the Portuguese greatly impacted the cuisine of Mozambique. Crops such as Cassava and Cashew nuts, Mozambique was once the largest producer of Cashew nuts, and pãozinho were brought in by the Portuguese. From their Asian colonies the Portuguese brought Oranges, Lemons and Limes. From Brazil, their colony in South America, they brought Capsicums, Corn, Tomatoes, Pineapples, Bananas and the domesticated pig. They also brought Chillies, including a hot little chilli that originated in South America that today is known as the African Bird’s Eye, Peri Peri or African Red Devil. As Sugarcane, Maize, Millet, Rice, Sorghum and Potatoes were introduced. Prego, Rissois (battered shrimp), Espetada (kebab), Pudim (pudding), and the popular Inteiro com piripiri, (whole chicken in peri-peri sauce). The cuisine of Mozambique revolves around fresh seafood, stews, Corn porridge, Rice, Millet and Cassava. Meats such as Bifel (steak) and Frango (chicken) are often accompanied by Beans, Cassava chips, Cashew nuts, Coconut, Batata (potatoes), and a variety of spices, including Garlic. Seasonal fruta, puddings made of fruits and Rice, and fried balls of flour paste ,similar to doughnuts, most often accompanied by Mozambican chá , make a delicious ending to any meal. Colonized in 1505 by Portugal, Mozambique’s official language is Portuguese. One positive legacy of colonization I reckon few would dispute is the country’s unique and delicious African fusion cuisine, known simply as “local cuisine” in Mozambique and as “colonial Portuguese” in South Africa and other neighboring countries that serve it up.

In the mornings for pequeno almoço (breakfast), tea and coffee are commonly sold with sandwiches made of egg or fresh fish, or a slightly sweetened bread-cake. The pequeno almoço is usually light, however, as the main meal of the day is normally almoço (lunch) at midday.

Those who work in cities and towns often purchase almoço from food stalls (also called tea stalls), which are located on roadsides, bus stations, and markets around town. Pregos (steak sandwiches), burgers, fried chicken, meat stews, and rice are typical fare available from the stalls. Fresh seafood from off the coast of Mozambique is abundant and is considered some of the most delicious food available. It is sold nearly everywhere from street stalls to city restaurants, though it is more available near the coast. Fresh fish, prawns (similar to shrimp), calamari (squid), crab, lobster, and crayfish are often served with arroz (rice) or batata fritas (fries, known as chips). Matata , a seafood and peanut stew, is a typical local dish. Rice topped with sauce, spicy stew, fresh fruit (such as pineapples sprinkled with sugar and cashew nuts), and posho (maize porridge) are common lunches for children. Toasted cheese sandwiches ( sandes de queijo ), commonly sold at stalls, and chips (fries) are other favorites.

Aside from the widely served coffee and tea, adults may enjoy locally brewed beer made from maize, a Mozambican staple food. The thick and sweet drink is often drunk from a common pot and shared by everyone present on special occasions. Madeira, a Portuguese wine that is popular in Mozambique, was extremely popular in America during the colonial era—it was a favourite of George Washington and was used to toast the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

The religions practiced by the people of Mozambique are Islam, Christianity, and African indigenous beliefs. This is a result of the various cultures that have dominated the country throughout its history. Arab traders introduced the religion of Islam, the dominant religion of their Middle Eastern origins. The Portuguese, led by explorer Vasco da Gama, made one of their missions to spread the idea of Christianity on their voyage to India at the end of the 1400s , bringing spices and various riches back to Portugal was the other mission.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, roughly 60 percent of the population practiced a form of traditional indigenous religion, 30 percent are Christian, and about 10 percent are Muslim. Some Christians and Muslims also choose to practice their traditional indigenous beliefs.

Curries are served hot in the Mozambican style, with Manga Achar which is mango chutney. The fish and the seafood of the Mozambican coastline are considered to be daintiness all over the world. The Mozambican coffees and teas from the Zambezia region are also considered to be best quality products. The Mozambican Peri Peri, the hot chilli sauce made of Lemon juice, Olive oil, coarse red Chilli, Garlic powder and Salt. All these ingredients are mixed together in a small bowl and simmered. The traditional Peri Peri has no Portuguese influences and is popular all over Mozambique. Salada pera de abacate, which translated means the Avocado Salad is also popular in most Mozambicans regions. This delicious salad is made of slices Lettuces, two Tomatoes, two Avocados, Lemon dressing made from Lemon juice, Olive oil and Peach syrup, Salt, Pepper and herbs. Ananas con vihno do porto meaning Fresh Pineapple in Port Wine and is made of ripe sweet Pineapple, Sugar and red Port Wine. The Pineapple needs to be cut into slices and the core needs to be removed. After covered with red Port Wine, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator for several hours. The Prawns and seafood cooked in the Mozambican way is popular all over Mozambique. The main ingredients for most fish dishes are raw Prawns, crushed red Chilli, Salt, Water, Lemon wedges and Peri Peri.

The strong Christian presence throughout the country makes Christmas a very special time. Portuguese songs are rehearsed, costumes are designed for children participating in Mozambican celebratory dances, and decorations are made to hang on Christmas trees. A dove (symbolizing peace) and a cross form Mozambique’s logo for the Christian Council and is often found on trees during Christmas time each year. Those who can afford a nice holiday meal will often have an entrée of meat, accompanied by rice, a vegetable, fresh fruit, and fancy pastries or cakes for dessert. Those closer to the coast will usually eat garlic shrimp or other seafood delicacies. The very poor often receive a food donation of rice, oil, and beans from various organizations. Christmas Day is also called Family Day in Mozambique.

Secular (non-religious) holidays are also widely celebrated throughout the country. Often on these days, families and close friends gather together to enjoy a large meal. Some of these days include New Year’s Day on January 1, Independence Day on June 25, and Maputo City Day in Maputo on November 10. On such special occasions, bolo polana ,a Cashew nut and Potato cake is a Mozambican favourite.