Food in Zambia
Zambian cuisine is based on a single staple, maize, which is presented in one form, nsima (n’SHEE-ma). Nsima is a thick porridge that is shaped into balls with your right hand and dipped into a variety of relishes (stews) (ndiwo, umunani). Those who can afford it eat beef, chicken, or fish delights, while those who can’t eat beans, small dried fish (kapenta), peanuts, pumpkin leaves (chibwabwa), and other vegetables like okra (ndelele), cabbage, and rape. Nsima may be eaten as a soup for breakfast, perhaps with a little sugar. For less than 5K ($1), local eateries will offer nsima and relish.
Western cuisine has also made significant inroads, especially in large towns, and you can get virtually any meal you want in Lusaka or Livingstone. In Zambia, fast food, such as chips and burgers, pizza, and fried chicken, is extremely popular. Bakeries selling inexpensive fresh bread can be found in most cities, and rice from Chama may be used as a substitute if maize becomes scarce.
Ethnic restaurants are popular for sit-down dinners. Sunday brunch at The Intercontinental in Lusaka is particularly notable, and if you enjoy Indian cuisine, The Dil is a must-visit. Of course, since wildlife parks often cater to affluent — generally foreign — tourists, high-quality Western meals are readily available. You’ll see “tuck shops” along major highways selling boxed cookies or take-away dinners — pork pies or sausage rolls, for example — that may or may not satisfy you.
Finally, outside of large cities, you are rare to locate a decent washroom with running water in terms of cleanliness. You’ll most likely be given a bowl of water, some soap, and a (wet) towel. As a result, some tourists carry antibacterial hand soap in tiny bottles with them.
Drinks in Zambia
Zambian tap water is usually unfit to drink unless it has been heated. In cities, bottled water is readily accessible, but not often in rural regions. In the event of an emergency, carrying chlorine tablets to cleanse water is recommended.
Maheu, a little gritty and faintly yogurty yet refreshing beverage prepared from maize flour, is a traditional local drink worth tasting. Maheu from a factory is sweet, comes in plastic bottles, and comes in a variety of flavors including banana, chocolate, and orange, while maheu from a household is generally unflavored and less sweet.
Coke products are readily available and inexpensive, costing less than a quarter a bottle, but be aware of the deposit system: in rural regions, you may be required to return an empty bottle before receiving a new one!
The residents’ favorite drink is masese (muh-SE-say) or ucwala (uch-WALA), commonly known as Chibuku after the largest brand, which is produced from maize, millet, or cassava and has a texture and flavor similar to sour porridge. If you want to give it a try, search for factory-made varieties in milk-carton-like containers.
There are chances to consume local “homebrews” in rural regions. Zambia has a broad range of homebrews, ranging from honey beers (produced in the country’s southern provinces) to tea-leaf wine (in the Eastern portion of the country).
Finally, there’s kachasu (kuh-CHA-suh), a spirit made from anything Zambians can find, including battery acid and manure. It is thus preferable to avoid this moonshine for obvious reasons.
Finally, the majority of males at pubs are unwinding, while many women are working. If you’re a single woman at a Zambian bar, be warned that you may be approached and given the chance to do something you didn’t want to do.