Issue 5 (November 2009) 

• Biltong? What’s that then?

It is a dried strip of meat that is the Namibians’ snack of choice. Babies even teethe on it.

• So it’s just a chewy bit of old beef?
Not just any old bit. And not just beef. Kudu, springbok, wildebeest, impala and ostrich all make great biltong. It’s carefully cured using spices like coriander, sprinkled with vinegar and salt, then dried.

• So it’s like beef jerky?
Sort of – but don’t let a Namibian hear you say that. Biltong is thinner than jerky, it’s not smoked, and there’s no vinegar in jerky either. Oh, and biltong is much, much tastier. Of course.

• Where did it come from?
Legend has it that cattle herders would put strips of meat under their saddles. The chafing would tenderise them, and the sweat would act as a preservative.

• Stop, it’s enough to make you become a vegetarian.
OK, OK, a more palatable (and probable) explanation is that southern African pioneers sun-dried meat using vinegar from the Cape vineyards. The Cape was a halfway stop on the Spice Route from the east, so there were plenty of spices around to add taste.

• Any recommendations?
Sure. Try the beautifully soft springbok biltong from the Kalahari Meat & Biltong Supplies on Sam Nujoma Drive in Windhoek.


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