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'Guide to street food in Lusaka'

Vitumbuwa - By Dai Njobvu

I think I am the only one of my sisters comfortable enough to talk about eating street food and brave enough to share with my mom some “amazing” things I ate without a second thought. Growing up, my siblings and I like most Zambians I know were forbidden to eat street food. Forget about buying Vitumbuwa (fritters), samosas, maize, etc. We were only allowed to eat food packaged in a factory. But as is the story with most of the youngest siblings in the family, when I was growing up, some rules were not as stringent with me as were with my siblings so I got away with a few things. Everyone knows eating fritters at the corner with a group of friends is different from fritters you mom makes at home regardless of how much love goes into making them, that Amake chitechi touch cannot be recreated in a kitchen as it is special to the streets.

I love to travel. In my many travels, I am curious about street food in different countries which can be quite an amazing experience and is part of the best cuisines a country has to offer. This revelation of “foreign street food” made me question why we do not trust our Zambian street food. Yes, some places are not sanitary and there are some things we really should not buy from street vendors but some foods are actually really good. Speaking to a lot of Zambian friends who are frequent travelers like myself, I have found that they too consume street food outside of Zambia but something in their heads reminds them of parents warnings when it comes to street food in Zambia that they won’t touch it.

When I was in boarding school, what would be considered street food in Lusaka is really what we got from out weekday market; popcorn from Amake Vin, chips (yes, cold fries, fried hours before hand but school girls were happy to eat with ketchup because dining hall food was not always the best), and roasted groundnuts etc. I think this was the beginning of my relaxed attitude towards street food even upon my return to Lusaka. I once tweeted that every city has its morning scent and for me, Lusaka morning air always has a mix of dew, dust and faint scent of vitumbuwa as if to warn you that there is an “Amake chitechi” by a corner somewhere ready to serve you breakfast. Thank God for those ladies with their warm filling breakfast all for less than K5.

I think street food in Zambia is worth the try and I have prepared some life hacks in order to have the best street food experience:

Know your amake chitechi
These ladies will have a specific corner, look out for the one closest to you and check out her sanitary provisions before you decide she will be your go to amake. I always like to ensure she has freshly made dough ENOUGH only for that mornings breakfast. Once her vitumbuwas are done, she goes home. You want to ensure your chitumbuwa came from that hot boiling oil before you take it. Left over chitumbuwa is a no no. Do not buy it. Do not eat it.

The building guards always have the best amake chitechi hook up
Make friends with the guards at your building. If you do not wish to make the trek to the corner, they are always happy to make the runs for you knowing they too have secured breakfast. And trust they will find you the best amake chitechi because they too always look out for the lady with the good fritter (that is of course if you ensure that they always get something for their running arounds)

Do not be afraid to try something new
My rule is, as long as it goes into that hot boiling oil, it is safe to eat as the hot cooking oil burns all the germs there might be (if you try to get snotty, be reminded you do not ever see what’s happening in a restaurant kitchen, at least you are watching when amake is cooking). My new discovery this year was Amake Regina’s chunky fried sweet potatoes. OMG! Delicious. This is something I had always had in restaurants but never seen as street food so I was curious when I did and I loved it. The lady was on to something. I do not recommend potato samosas though.

Avoid boiled food
For safety’s sake, I avoid the boiled stuff. Yes, water kills germs at 100 degrees, but I would rather stay away in case of any sensitivity issues so I keep away from the boiled sweet potatoes, the boiled maize and just anything boiled sold by the Amakes’. Sorry.

Freezits? Yes! Ice-block? NO!
Again, when it comes to water, you want to make sure that even as adventurous as you are becoming, you are being cautious. Freezits are factory made and packaged so you can be assured of some level of great hygiene and sanitation that went into the packet. Ice-blocks on the other hand are homemade and if you have water sensitivity issues, you do not want to imagine what went into the making of them. Buy bottled water or purchase a coca-cola from the closest kantemba.

Roasted maize
Roasted maize and bananas are always recommended by me.

Joe Mbuzi
Many local pubs will have a little corner “kitchen” making some of the most delicious and tender goat meat and potatoes combination you have ever had. My favorite and recommended is in Kafue, but Lusaka has some nice local spots too.

Enjoy your Zambian street food experience. There is still a lot to try out there, Zambian cuisine can be amazing, and we need to embrace the different versions of it there is. I am still mentally preparing myself to try michopo, I have not brought myself to being open to that, but it is on my bucket list.

I may be corporate inclined, but I also want to be remembered as person who was not afraid to go down and dirty to enjoy some of the local foods provided by the lovely Amake Regina at the corner. Mudye bwino!


Amake- Mother of
Chitechi – Someone/something
Chitumbuwa – One fritter / Vitumbuwa – Many fritters
Kantemba- Street tuck-shop
Michopo- (how to explain this? probably why I have never eaten this, I do not really know what it is)
Mudye bwino – Bon apetit?

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Pic via Kanta Temba


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