With a name that literally translates as “a vast and dry plain,” Namibia shows itself to Anthony Bourdain to be one of the truly great “empty” spaces of the world. But despite being a flat, largely featureless expanse of “nothingness,” Namibia is home to a food culture that is quite unlike anything on Earth. While it might not appeal to everyone, it was a unique chapter in Bourdain’s travel experiences.
Anthony Bourdain visited Namibia to film season 3 (episode 4) of No Reservations; it was his only on-screen visit to the African country, and certainly contained some memorable meals.
If you’re planning to visit – or just love learning about all the places Tony ate – this guide to places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Namibia will help. While he didn’t visit many restaurants, Bourdain did eat truly unique foods and cultural experiences you can seek out if you want a beyond-the-beaten-path adventure in Namibia. Ready to see what I mean?
Beira Oysters Farm (Walvis Bay)
Beginning his journey on a boat in the frigid waters off the coast of Walvis Bay, Namibia’s second-largest city, Anthony Bourdain is greeted with a food all too familiar to him – oysters. He meets with Manuel Romero, owner of Beira Aquaculture, who uses the traditional Spanish raft system for growing oysters.
The water in Namibia is rich in phytoplankton, which is perfect for oyster cultivation, and as Bourdain tries one of the freshly caught shellfish, the excellent taste and texture harkens back to his first oyster in France all those years ago.
Topnaar Community (Namibia)
Bourdain then travels to a Topnaar community, home to local tribal people who are living on the edge of the country. Here he talks with local community liaison Rudolph Dausab to understand the harsh realities of day-to-day life in this barren country, as well as learns about their reliance on the spiny, otherworldly-looking Nara plant.
The plant, which thrives in the harsh climate due to its wide-running root system, is the source of nearly everything for the Topnaar. A staple food for hundreds of years, it is prepared in a multitude of different ways. Its shell is emptied into a pot and mixed with boiled water to form a nutritious porridge, whilst its iron and protein-rich seeds can be dried, roasted, boiled, or smashed, each version with a different flavor.
Finally, the pulp itself can be dried for another protein-rich variation and is used by the tribes’ hunters when they go into the fields, together with the seeds and water, allowing them to remain in the bush for days.
Oshetu Market (Windhoek)
Tony travels next inland to the capital of Windhoek, where he visits the Oshetu market in the Katutura Township. Like any market, it is the hub of shopping activity for the community, and of course, there is food.
Cooked without any pretension, the grilled offerings here are basic but satisfying. Bourdain tries fried beef and fish, seasoned simply with a little bit of salt and pepper, and just a pinch of spice. Sometimes, the best meals are the simplest.
Kirikara Farm (Swakopmund)
Bourdain’s next stop is the Kirikara Farm, with its owner Hans Von Hase. A working sheep and cattle farm, Kirikara also operates a rural craft center and eco-retreat in the Namibian plains. Despite only receiving around 10” of rainfall a year, the farm is rich in white truffles, which grow all year round. Sampling one of these, Tony is also introduced to the Namibian tradition of a ‘sundowner’, drinking at sunset as the sky turns a brilliant shade of purple.
For his final stop in this unforgiving landscape, Anthony visits the bushmen of the Kalahari basin. A group of hunter-gatherers, the bushmen are legendary trackers with status based on one’s ability to bring meat to the family.
First on the menu is an ostrich omelet. An egg, taken from a nearby nest, is scrambled inside its shell, then cooked over a small fire where it is poured directly into the ground and surrounded by more pieces of burning wood to build up the radiant heat. Whilst indeed being cooked, Bourdain notes that this method does leave a decidedly gritty texture to the dish.
Next up is a meal perhaps second only to the beating cobra heart in terms of its infamy – warthog anus. Taken from a freshly killed and butchered animal, the anus is prized for its fat content. Preparation, however, is not for the faint-hearted. The intestinal organ is first ‘cleaned’ by squeezing any of its remaining contents out, then it is grilled, al dente, over an open fire. As a guest of honor, Tony is presented with this barely cleaned, unwashed, lightly charred piece of meat, which he describes as “chewy”.
Later, after a main course of warthog head slow-roasted in the hot dirt of the fire, Bourdain reflects on this as “the worst, most horrifying meal of [his] life”.
Thankfully, there is a dessert of sorts. A foraging trip with the tribe finds sweeter fare, including fresh berries, Kalahari truffles, melons, and a prized treat of beetles. The beetles are first de-legged to prevent escape, then lightly roasted and eaten with a pinch of salt. Packed with protein, these are surprisingly delicious, and the best thing that Anthony Bourdain has eaten all day.
Traveling to Namibia remains an eye-opening trip for Bourdain given the unique nature of the country, and he summarizes this in one of his best-known quotes: “Travel is not always fun, I need to be reminded of that every now and again. You’ll never get the truly great meals of your life if you don’t leave yourself open to the bad ones.”
Have any questions about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Namibia? Let me know in the comments below!