Namibia is located in Southern Africa and borders South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Angola. The beautiful country is popularly known as the Land of the Brave and it houses one of the most popular deserts in the world, the Namib desert.
The capital city is Windhoek which is where our story takes us. One of the well visited places in Windhoek is the Soweto market. It is found in the densely populated township of Katutura. Soweto market is located on Independence Avenue at the intersection of Abraham Mashego in Katutura and it is a very popular hangout among the youth. The place has many outdoor activities that the youth often engage in that include skating, football and “kapana”.
Kapana is a way of preparing raw meat, typically beef in Namibia by grilling it on open fire. The grilled meat is often sold at an open market by young and small business people; it is cut into small pieces and grilled and sold while it’s cooking. People from all walks of life come and enjoy the meat. There are often many people selling it at one place, so the price is always negotiable.
Small pieces are put to the side for prospective customers to taste and then decide which chef they want to go with, and yes, you may have guessed, no cutlery so everyone uses their hands and where they have been is anyone’s guess.
“Truth be told, the meat and salsa is divine if you can look past everything else, and it does fill my bottomless pit of a stomach – for an hour at least. Honestly, I enjoy the kapana experience every weekend. There is no better way to kick start a Saturday, have a good laugh and make new friends. Should I ever find myself hungover or heartbroken, I know where to go. Katutura for kapana,” said young Mr Robert Nangolo who never spends a weekend without visiting Soweto market for kapana.
The kapana business has contributed in a small way to the economic development of the country by giving unemployed young people an opportunity to start their business with very low capital enabling them to look after their families.
The joy of kapana is in the social interaction, Facebook falls way behind when it comes to the number of strangers who can poke you while waiting to feast on this sensational, spicy delicacy. A small piece of the grilled meat costs between N$1 and N$4 and it is the ideal price for a quick snack.
Here is the catch! The authentically Namibian delicacy has a way of being eaten. Kapana chef Moses Katjoputu takes us through the basics.
“When you walk through the kapana market, the cooks will call you over and offer you a sample of their meat. They will cut you a little cube of meat and you pick it up, with your fingers, right off the grill. You then dip it in the spices to taste, and pop the delicious nugglet right into your mouth! If like it, you can buy more. Once you state the amount you are e willing to give, the cook will grill and cut an appropriate amount of meat. You then stand by the grill and eat it there, or they can put it onto a piece of newspaper so you can take it with you! While you are eating your kapana, you can also have traditional Ovambo bread (sweet fresh bread), fat cakes (fried bread, kind of oily), and/or salad (finely chopped tomatoes and onions in oil and spices),” he said.
There is so much culture associated with kapana. Kapana is inexpensive to buy and fast to cook. The area around the kapana stand is regarded as a social place, meeting new people of varying economic backgrounds while enjoying the lunch. Although most people could grill beef at home, many prefer to go and eat kapana while having conversation and making new friends.
You find all sorts of people at kapana, from the ordinary guy on the street to a diplomat. People from different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities all converge for some unique meaty taste on their buds.
If you visit Namibia once and feel very frisky and adventurous, it wont be a bad thing to trade in cutlery and table manners for some hot and delicious kapana sizzled the Namibian way.