About the food of Malawi

Lake Malawi. Photo by Steve Evans.

Malawi undulates and ambles along eastern Africa – a collection of soft rolling hills and glistening lake waters, dotted with thatched villages, dusty courtyards, and a healthy array of vivid, green trees. The land is striking and, yet, completely new to me.

Maps & flag courtesy of CIA World Factbook. Monoxylon beach, Lake Malawi - photo by Stefan Kraft.

When it comes to mealtime, I was immediately intrigued by the street food. First, there’s grilled mice, boiled goat liver, banana fritters (zitumbuwa) and chippies. The first two I witnessed in travel videos. I read about chippies on Be-ing Brittany. Brittany is a Community Health Advisor in Malawi. We emailed back and forth, during which time I learned that chippies are simply crisp, deep-fried potoato wedges, served with tsabola [Recipe], a firey dipping sauce (most street food is served with tsabola).

Here is a typical chippies stand in action:

Frying chippies stand. Photo courtesy of Brittany Krake.

While (select) street food is enough to make me board the first plane to Malawi, most people eat a simple diet of boiled maize called Nsima or Ufa (not unlike the papa we made for Lesotho), sometimes with peanuts added, beans, or fish from the giant lake. The Nsima can be made stiff or quite soupy, so that it can easily be ladled out to large groups, like school children. Leafy greens, pumpkins, tropical fruit, and homemade ginger beer all are popular staples throughout the country as well.

In the cities, food is much more elaborate and international. Sweet potatoes might be added to biscuits [Recipe], or peanuts might make their way into cookies [Recipe]. Pizza and burgers are greatly enjoyed in little restaurants, as well.

Old Town Lilongwe, Malawi. Photo by Brian Dell.

And that’s just the beginning.

There’s a whole world of flavor in Malawi.

Opt In Image
Hungry for more?
Be notified when National Geographic releases my memoir.

Simply fill in your details below.


  1. Ah – I remember Lake Malawi, the markets, the music. Especially the national park that I had all to myself — never saw another person for five days except the game warden who, for $1 a day, would lead me through the bush on foot to see elephants, warthogs, lions. At night, from inside my rondavel, I could hear the hippos breathing all around me. All noses in the water during the day, the hippos would come up out of the river and night and graze — just a couple of feet away from me, only a grass wall separating us.

  2. We spent this summer visiting our son, who’s a Peace Corps worker in Malawi. We enjoyed the nsima with a special tomato sauce and another time with grilled Talapia and cooked greens that was the best meal we ate. The interesting thing about nsima, that I never got the hang of, was breaking off a chunk and rolling in one hand then dipping /scooping it into the greens or sauce. We did NOT try the fried mice from the street food on our way to Zambia, but we did try “croc bites” and fried caterpillar in Zambia. The croc & caterpillar was served with yummy tomato based sauce. Delicious! Thank you so much for your research and information. We LOVE our eating adventures when we travel and will be trying your recipes!


  1. […] P.S. These recipes are more “city,” for a description of some of the “country” foods, please read more about the food of Malawi. […]

Speak Your Mind