Eats

From Private Homes to Fine Restaurants and Hotels, Mopane Worms are a Zimbabwean Delicacy

 

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Mopane worms, or macimbi, are a delicacy in Zimbabwe. Whether the creatures are being served at home or a restaurant, there is a particular process to cooking the traditional dish. Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe

Mopane worms are a staple dish in Zimbabwe. The worms are harvested during the rainy season, then cleaned and sun-dried for preservation. Commonly referred to as macimbi, the dish is now being served in urban restaurants, an affordable source of animal protein for diners.

BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE – Busani Ngwenya sits down at Steak and Chops Restaurant in the city center to enjoy a plate of mopane worms, popularly known as macimbi in isiNdebele, served with sadza, a Zimbabwean staple dish, salad and sautéed greens.

“Macimbi is one of my favorite dishes that I really enjoy. I sometimes have them in the comfort of my home and at times, I enjoy eating them in a restaurant,” Ngwenya says.

He added that the dish’s price is attractive compared to steak and chicken.

Mopane worms, scientifically known as Gonimbrasia belina, are a delicacy in Zimbabwe. They are served in restaurants, hotels and as a popular dish in homes.

They are known by different names in different languages: madora in Shona, masonja in Venda, phane in Tswana and infinkubala in Bemba.

The worms are harvested during the rainy season, after which they are cleaned, sun-dried for preservation and made available for consumption throughout the year.

The supervisor at the Steak and Chops Restaurant, Sithembile Rusere, says the macimbi dish is popular and is one of the affordable dishes on their menu.

“We often serve this dish with sadza made from either sorghum or maize meal. To make our dish appetizing, we add green vegetables and tomato and cucumber salad,” she says.

The dish is sold for $1.50 a plate.

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Busani Ngwenya, a customer at Steak and Chops Restaurant in Bulawayo, enjoys a plate of mopane worms served with sadza, sautéed greens and a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.

Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

Rusere says the restaurant buys mopane worms from local markets as well as markets that are outside of Bulawayo.

“Mopane worms come in different types, so at our restaurant there is a certain type of mopane worm that we want and at times we go to surrounding towns to buy them,” she says.

Rusere says mopane worms are served on a menu with a number of other Zimbabwean traditional foods.

Edible insects and caterpillars constitute some of the cheapest sources of animal protein.

Nomsa Moyo, a waitress at Dickies Restaurant, said macimbi is often on the menu, but they are currently waiting for the next harvest to get fresh mopane worms.

The mopane worm harvest often begins in December and continues through March. It is during this time that most restaurants’ macimbi sales are at their peak. (To read more about the harvesting of mopane worms, read this Passport story).

Bruce Dube, a manager at a local supermarket that also serves mopane worms as part of its menu, said it also sells pre-packed packets of macimbi that are supplied by various companies in the country.

A 500-gram (17.5 ounce) packet of mopane worms costs between $2.50 and $3.

 

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Mopane worms are often dried in the sun before being sold for consumption, therefore they require a good soak in water and a thorough cleaning before being cooked.

Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

RECIPE

WHAT YOU NEED

A medium-sized pot

A cooking spoon

 

INGREDIENTS:
500 grams (about 2 cups) mopane worms, or macimbi
2 liters (about 2 quarts) water
1 tablespoon cooking oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped

Serves 3 to 5 people

 

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After being cleaned, mopane worms are boiled in hot water.

Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

 

How to cook mopane worms:

  1. Soak the mopane worms in 500 milliliters (about 2 cups) of hot water for 10 minutes.
  2. Clean the mopane worms and place them in a pot of water and bring it to a boil for 15 minutes.
  3. Change the water to enhance cleaning.
  4. Boil again for 20 more minutes.
  5. Drain the water; add cooking oil to the pot of mopane worms and deep fry using moderate heat.
  6. Once the mopane worms are fried and crispy, about 10 minutes, add salt, garlic, tomato and onion and mix all the ingredients together.
  7. Allow pot to simmer for 15 minutes until garlic, tomato and onion are well cooked.
  8. Serve with sadza or as a snack. The mopane worms can also be served with green vegetables and salads.

 

Nomsa Moyo and Fortune Moyo, GPJ, are not related.