Wild Foods of Namibia: Omajova Mushrooms

Oftentimes we are surrounded by a wealth of nutritious calories but we don’t even know it! Even in the desert of Namibia, you can find wild foods being sold on the streets by knowledgeable pickers. What better way to learn about the culture of Namibia and support the local economy than to strike up a conversation with one of these sellers and try some of the delicious foods that they have to offer? I can’t think of anything more quintessentially Namibian than eating the local wild foods that have sustained generations here for centuries.

Omajova mushrooms are a truly spectacular wild food! These monsterous schrooms grow on the sides of termite mounds after a few good days of rain. They are said to taste like steak, though I thought that they had a more “chicken-y” flavor. Locals that have been picking the mushrooms for years know exactly when and where to go search for them. They pick what they can and then lay out their goods to sell on the side of the road. Eric and I spotted them on the C33 near Kalkfeld. Each mushroom cost N$15.

Eric and I had heard about these mushrooms and were dying to try them, but we had no idea how to best prepare them. Luckily, on a ride back from Omaruru to Karibib, our driver saw our stash and we struck up a conversation with him about how best to prepare them. He gave us detailed instructions! First, thoroughly clean the mushrooms. Then, remove the top from the stem and cut the top into triangular pieces. Cut the stem into circles about a half an inch thick. Season the mushroom pieces with salt and pepper, coat them in flour then egg then another light layer of flour. Pan fry each piece in a little oil. Eric and I “veganized” the instructions by using aquafaba instead of egg.

Following the instructions from our awesome driver was absolutely delicious, but we had some mushrooms left over so we decided to try something else with them…cheesesteaks! I figured the “meaty” taste of the mushroom would be perfect to recreate the classic Philadelphia sandwich. First, I “pulled” the mushrooms into strips. Then, I caramelized some peppers and onions and added a bit of olive oil. Next, I seasoned my pulled mushrooms with a little salt and pepper and sauteed them until all of the mushroom juice boiled off. Then, I made my vegan coconut cheese sauce. Mix coconut milk, coconut oil, aquafaba, rice vinegar, nutritional yeast, salt, and cornstarch together in a bowl until everything is incorporated. Then, transfer this mixture to a pot and bring to a boil while constantly stirring. The mixture should begin to thicken, keep stirring, and add more cornstarch if necessary to get to your desired consistency. Remove from the heat once it’s ooey and gooey to your liking. Layer your peppers and onions, mushrooms, and cheese sauce on a toasted roll and enjoy!

Have you ever mixed foods from different cultures to make something of your own? Let us know in the comments below!

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