During his many travels on the African continent, Anthony Bourdain was always willing to try foods as they were in that place, showing off the incredible diversity of a place that many of us might think homogeneous. When Tony visited Mozambique in 2011, he found the former Portuguese colony to be a young nation, slowly rebuilding everything from the ground up following its independence in 1975, with arguably some of the best food on the continent.
Anthony Bourdain visited Mozambique to film season 8 (episode 1) of No Reservations; it was his only visit to the East African country, though he did visit some other countries in the general region, including South Africa, Madagascar, and Kenya.
If you’re planning to visit Mozambique and want to make sure you try some truly local foods, it’s safe to trust Uncle Tony to be your guide. Here are the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Mozambique, as well as what he ate; in many cases, we don’t know the exact place but you can still use this guide to plan your time and meals.
Makua Village (Unknown Location)
Bourdain’s first stop in the world’s 35th largest country is a small Makua village. With animal protein a scarce, and often life-giving luxury, spit-roasted rat is usually the order of the day. However, in honor of his visit, Tony has brought with him a goat, and the whole village gathers to enjoy the feast.
The goat itself is cut into chunks and made into a stew, simmered with onions, garlic, and turmeric, then prepared in a rich curry. This is served together with cassava root, which is ground then boiled and made similar to grits. Finally, there is a banana curry, stewed with coriander and cumin, spices brought to the country by Arab and Indian merchants hundreds of years ago.
Home Meal (Ilha de Moçambique)
Traveling to the coastal settlement of Ilha de Moçambique, Bourdain’s next meal showcases the fine array of seafood that the Indian Ocean has to offer.
With the food being a mix of Brazilian and Indian spices, the best of African, Asian, and European traders, it’s no surprise that this heady mix of influences leads to some incredible dishes.
First, there is crab curry, perhaps the country’s most famous seafood dish, where the fresh local crab is stewed with chili, lemon, garlic, cardamom, coriander, and coconut milk. This is then seasoned with the local hot pepper, piri-piri (from the Swahili word for pepper), which gives these dishes a uniquely Mozambiquian flavor.
There are also calamari rings, battered and fried. Like tempura, this was a Portuguese innovation brought over during the colonial years.
With the abundance of seafood, Tony is also served a variety of fish, cleaned, and scored, rubbed with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and garlic butter, then grilled over charcoal, together with a light fish stew with sardines, and the truly gargantuan giant crayfish, again basted with butter and grilled.
Copa Cabana Beach Shack (Beira)
Traveling 600 miles (1000km) down the coast, Anthony’s next locale is the port city of Beira, Mozambique’s second-largest city and largest port, and the location for the now derelict Grande Hotel, a former hotel and casino complex.
After visiting the Macuti shipwreck and lighthouse, he finds a beach bar and chows down on some piri-piri chicken, arguably the national dish of Mozambique.
Found in restaurants and beachside shacks like this across the country, piri-piri chicken is grilled over hot coals and best washed down with an ice-cold beer. The piri-piri sauce itself, which the cooking chicken is continuously basted with, is made from peanut oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, tomato, and the fiery piri-piri pepper which gives the sauce its trademark burn.
Esplanada Belinha, Fish Market (Maputo)
Finally making it all the way south to the capital city of Maputo, Tony visits the fish market for yet more seafood. Like many other places on his travels, the Maputo market allows its patrons to purchase fish from the stalls out front, before taking it to the myriad of restaurants out back for cooking.
Esplanada Belinha, selected by Bourdain’s guide, Milton, is one such establishment. Here, they are served up clams steamed with garlic, gigantic tiger prawns grilled and basted with butter, and xima, another of Mozambique’s signature dishes. A filling and nutritious staple, this local variation on the African starch is made from ground maize and is also prepared similar to grits, much like the ground cassava root from earlier.
Unknown Beach Grill (Maputo)
As the sun goes down, the beaches around Maputo fill with workers and students alike, eager to escape the fierce evening heat with a dip in the refreshing waters of the Indian Ocean.
For his final meal in Mozambique, Anthony Bourdain tries grilled magumba, a local fish similar to sardines. Reflecting on his time in the country, Bourdain calls the Mozambiquan food “the best I’ve had in Africa,” and a fitting accompaniment for a country that, despite everything, is full of hope.
Have any questions about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Mozambique, or what he ate? Let me know in the comments below!