Foodies from South Africa routinely flock to Mozambique when the weather is good to sip on local drinks and devour spicy grilled prawns. But the secret of Mozambican cuisine isn’t quite out around the globe yet. Centuries of Portuguese influence combined with local African culture have made one of the most flavorful cuisines on the planet. Whether you are eating at a sit-down restaurant or grabbing something from a vendor on the beach, here are 10 delicious foods you have to try in Mozambique.
Prego rolls are so popular that you’ll find them throughout South Africa as well. But if you want the very best, you have to get them in Mozambique. Prego rolls are basically a nice piece of steak in a spicy piri piri sauce served on Portuguese white bread rolls known as Pao. After you’ve had a few, you’ll think twice about getting a burger instead of this delicious sandwich.
Matata is one of a handful of dishes that wasn’t influenced from Portuguese cuisine. It’s a stew made from clams and peanuts that has a flavor profile unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. It’s also accompanied by a bunch of chopped pumpkin leaves (did you know you could eat them?) along with a generous portion of white rice.
Sandes de queijo
These delicious sandwiches share a bit in common with the Prego roll as they both use Pao. But instead of throwing a spicy steak inside, these just come with cheese, and the sandwich is toasted so the bread gets crispy and the cheese gets melty. They are commonly sold at stalls and a bit cheaper than prego rolls — so fill up!
Mozambique has an array of local drinks including fruity fermentations, beer, and palm wine. Pombe is one of the most potent drinks and is made from maize, mango, cassava, cashew fruit and sugar cane, then left to ferment for a few days. Sura is a palm wine that’s pretty tasty, but takes some getting used to. Other drinks to try include Mozambican beers such as 2M, Laurentina and Manica.
You won’t find this at many tourist restaurants, but locals eat this staple on an almost daily basis. The dish is basically ground up maize and water that’s boiled until it becomes a thick porridge. It’s often topped with some meat as well. If you’re planning on going on a long trek that day, fill up in the morning with some ncima. If you’re from South Africa, it’s pretty much the same thing as pap.
We definitely didn’t forget this stellar dish that’s often associated with Mozambique. You’ll find them at just about every restaurant in the cities along the coast, but the best way to eat them is to find some stall on the beach that is cooking them up fresh on a grill.
This food is often served as a side along with a main and is not to be confused with matata. However, it’s so good that you might want to just order it by itself. The sauce is usually made from cassava leaves, ground peanuts and coconut. Some restaurants like to put some tiny shrimp in it also. Anyway you have it, it’s bound to be delicious.
You might not be able to make it out of Mozambique without getting served coconut rice, but just in case you don’t get it wherever you happen to be, you need to find a way to try it. The rice is usually fluffy basmati and is made with coconut milk (and sometimes some toasted coconut). It’s the perfect compliment to cool down the spicy dishes the country is known for.
Speaking of spicy dishes, curry is extremely popular in Mozambique, but the flavor profiles won’t be like Indian or Thai food. The curry in Mozambique uses distinctive local spices (which you can also buy in the markets) and is usually served with prawns or chicken. The prawn curry is usually going to be a bit better in most restaurants.
Piri piri everything
This isn’t a main dish, but is ubiquitous in Mozambican cuisine. Piri piri (or peri peri) sauce is used for marinades on everything from chicken, to prawns, to ribs and gives food a delicious flavor full of chili spice. You can also put it on just about anything — try putting it on your rice or french fries!
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This article was originally published October 1, 2015.