Kapana vendor Katatura market Namibia

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We finished a two-week road trip in the countryside of Namibia where we feasted on all types of game meat: oryx, impala, springbok, even wildebeest. So I was ready for some good old-fashioned beef when we returned to the capital city of Windhoek. Our friend Jim took us to the Soweto market in Katutura (a former apartheid-era village) to try some kapana, the famous Namibian street barbecue.

We had gone 12 months without opening our emergency supply of Cipro, a streak I didn’t want to break, but after watching Jim down strip after strip of beef mixed with a bit of fat we couldn’t resist.

men eating kapana in Katatura Namibia

Locals demonstrating the proper way to eat kapana.

The best way to eat kapana

There is a set way to eat kapana. Tell the vendor how much you want to spend and he pushes that amount of meat over to one side of the grill. Then pick it up with your hands, since it’s still over the open fire this part is a bit tricky, and dip it in a communal cardboard box filled with a salty spice blend. After eating a few pieces we picked up some freshly baked rolls from a bread vendor to make a sandwich out of ours.

Kapana roll Katatura market Namibia

Make sure to get a freshly baked roll.

The meat was delicious, fresh, tender and perfectly chargrilled, while the spice blend had the right amount of peppery kick. After he saw that we were enjoying ourselves, Jim decided to point out that, oops, it’s not beef after all but donkey meat we were chowing down on. Apparently it’s a local delicacy.

kapana donley meat namibia

The mystery meat.

I have to admit I couldn’t tell the difference, it still tasted pretty good. Later others told us it wasn’t donkey meat at all but that was hard to believe when the butcher’s tables a few feet away were laden with fresh donkey, which we could tell by the furry skin.

Kapana Katatura market butcher cutting boards

The butcher’s tables at the market display their years of use. To keep clean they are covered with fresh cardboard every day.

So maybe it was donkey, maybe it wasn’t. Sometimes when eating food in foreign lands, ignorance is indeed bliss. A lesson we learned when we tried kokorec, a sheep intestine sandwich in Istanbul. We loved it but didn’t know what it was until after we ate it.

Here’s a video of the kapana sizzling on the grill at the Katatura market:

What foods have you accidentally tried?