Friday, November 9, 2018

Kudu Meat: Biltong, Drywors, Boerewors, Pate, Meatballs, Stew & Steak

Kudu are hunted in South Africa for their meat. The meat is very lean and can have a livery, gamey flavor. It needs to be cooked carefully to avoid drying it out and making it difficult and unpleasant to eat. 
These kudu (male and female) were photographed in Etosha NP in Namibia.
From what I can find, kudu are not farmed in the traditional sense, like cattle, but are raised on private ranches, eating off the land as they would in a national park. Ranchers make money by allowing hunters to come on to their land and hunt them and the meat is made available to the food market as an additional income source.

Kudu was the most common game meat we encountered in Southern Africa and we had it in many forms. This post describes our experience in eating it.  

The name biltong comes from the Dutch words "bil" (meaning buttock) and tong (meaning strip or tongue). Travelbite states that "What prosciutto is to Italy, biltong is to South Africa." Comparing it to game jerky, she says biltong is better. It is "softer to chew...and more flavorful...[L]ike having a juicy steak in your back pocket ready for consumption." According to 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die (page 592) biltong was developed by the Boer pioneers in the 1830s when they had to trek from the Cape of Good Hope into the interior during their Great Trek. Biltong can be made from beef, but also wild game such as antelope, ostrich, giraffe and zebra. The meat is rubbed with a mixture of salt, "crushed coriander seeds, vinegar, and sugar, often along with saltpeter (potassium nitrate). It is hung in a draft to air-dry. Once dry, it is rubbed again, then returned to dry more. Good quality biltong should be dark and dry on the outside, but translucently red on the inside when cut into thin slivers. If kept dry, it will remain good for months without losing its flavor." There are three ways that biltong differs from jerky. First, the meat used in biltong can be thicker because of the slower drying time in dry air. Second, jerky is dried with salt, but no vinegar. Biltong has added vinegar and spices, in addition to salt, and together with the drying time, cures the meat and adds texture and flavor. Third, jerky is often smoked and biltong is never smoked. We had lots of nibbles of biltong. It was everywhere. But none of the biltong we tasted fit the descriptions above, in terms of moistness and softness. I'm sure with biltong, like with jerky, it is all over the board in terms of quality, as I've had jerky that could fit the descriptions. I was unimpressed with my experiences of biltong. It was much like American jerky. 
This is actually gemsbok biltong, but the tastes were similar. 
Boerewors is a sausage that originated in South Africa (boer is farmer and wors is sausage in Afrikaans/Dutch) and must contain at least 90% meat with a fat content of no more than 30%. It is preserved with salt and vinegar and put into a sausage casing. It is usually grilled over charcoal (braaied). We had antelope boerewors at Karibu in Cape Town which means it has different kinds of antelope in it. Because we had kudu, springbok and impala steaks that night on our safari platter, I'm guessing that there was at least some kudu in the boerewors as kudu was the antelope meat most available in restaurants. The boerewors were moist and tasty. 
The antelope boerwors are the smaller sausages on top in the center of this safari  platter at Karibu in Cape Town. 
Drywors or droewors (in Afrikaans, meaning dry sausage) is a sausage made with meat with no more than a 5% fat content. It is dried slowly in warm and dry conditions and is much thinner than boerewors to enable it to dry quicker and avoid spoiling. However, European dried sausages, such as salami, are dried even slower in colder and/or more humid conditions and contain a curing agent, whereas drywors have no curing agent. Drywors is spiced similarly to boerewors, with coriander seed, but can keep longer (as long as kept dry) than boerewors that must be refrigerated. We purchased kudu drywors at a market in downtown Cape Town at the recommendation of our guide. I ate it back at our hotel and, after the description above, unsurprisingly found it very dry with little moisture. It also had a weird, almost freeze-dried texture to it. I was not particularly fond of it and would probably not eat it if I lived in South Africa. 

This drywors is out of the package with a piece cut in two. 
Pate is a paste, at least in this instance, consisting of forcemeat that includes liver. Forcemeat is lean meat mixed with fat by grinding, sieving or pureeing it. I purchased a small can of kudu pate. It was very moist, had a slight liver taste and was extremely good. I regret not getting some pate for several other game animals that were available.

We visited Carnivore Restaurant in Muldersdrift, outside Johannesburg. Kudu was served to us in the form of meatballs. I have no idea what the added ingredients were, but they were moist and tasty. 
Kudu meatballs are to the right side of the plate. 
At the Boma Restaurant in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, they served a kudu stew with big chunks of moist kudu in a gravy. The kudu was not very distinguishable from normal beef stewmeat. 

The chunks of kudu are to the left. Guinea fowl is to the right. 
We had kudu steak several times. Our first kudu steak was at Karibu in Cape Town. We had it along with springbok and impala steaks, both of which were better. The kudu was relatively tough. But at least part of the difference was in cooking time. Both of the springbok and impala meats were rarer. 
Kudu, springbok and impala steaks are to the far left. The kudu was farthest left. This was at Karibu. 
Next we had it at Arnolds in Cape Town. I asked for it rare and it came out cooked medium. We sent it back for rare and the difference was amazing. It was moist and soft and had no gamey taste. It also had a wonderful mushroom gravy on it. This was really excellent. 
The second kudu steak at Arnolds smothered in mushroom gravy. 
Our last kudu steak was at Halili Camp in Etosha NP in Namibia. Raw steaks were next to a grill and it was cooked to order. I ordered mine very rare, basically just the outside browned, similar to seared ahi. It was marvelous, very tender. 
Kudu steaks under plastic wrap waiting to be cooked at Halili Camp. 
My rare kudu at the bottom of the plate.
My experiences confirmed that kudu needs to be cooked very rare and then it is fabulous.  

1 comment:

  1. I liked the biltong more than you did. I found it to be much more tender than the grocery store variety of jerky. However, I'd be hard-pressed to distinguish kudu biltong from other varieties of biltong. The other kudu varieties really varied for me too. It does seem that it is a meat commonly eaten by locals, more so than most of the other game meats we ate.