Another goat head please!
Behind the walls of the National Art Gallery and the National Theatre of Namibia is the Garlic & Flowers restaurant offering some of the best cooked African cuisines right in the heart of Windhoek.
One could hardly imagine that tantalising African cuisines and drinks such as baked goat head, porridge, matangaras, bean soups and oshikundu would be offered at this spacious yet hidden restaurant until the owner Seuaa Karuaihe invited me to try out her goat head.
The last time I had eaten a goat head was two years ago at a party in Oshikulu village northern Namibia.
Goat head is seldom sold as a main delicacy in civilised Windhoek, but you can find it everywhere in the rural areas.
I have heard of one, Otjikaendu, in Katutura Windhoek where goat head is sold.
Some eateries in Windhoek can be easily distinguished as being for Portuguese, for the Oshiwambo speaking, for Ovaherero, for coloureds, for Asians or whites only, but with Garlic & Flowers, you barely notice those differences. It is a place for everyone with an appetite.
It’s not spacious, neither is it crowded. The best word to described the environment is ‘relaxed’. This restaurant is a great get-away from the hussles and tussles of central Windhoek.
In the company of two lady friends, we sat four on the tables.
Here dress code or what you are eating is not a cause for concern.
The dish we ordered included the baked goat head, matangara, marathon chicken, pap, bean soup, and pumpkin with the addition of chips.
Yeh, right in the heart of Windhoek’s bustling CBD. Matangara, goat head and the marathon chicken, I re-emphasise.
I even asked for the traditional brew, oshikundu but it was not prepared that day, so we had to all settle for the usual, soft drinks and appetizers.
Meanwhile as soon as the food arrived the girls went straight for the chips and marathon chicken while us guys started negotiating with the head not forgetting that the matangara would be ours also.
Few ladies would go for a goat-head as lunch or for matangara, let alone the marathon chicken, on a working day, in the heart of the city.
Locals tend to feel embarrassed to try it, let alone order it at restaurants.
Some claim not to eat goat heads at all, maybe because they are lazy to prepare it or they just do not know how to prepare it.
At Garlic & Flowers, goat heads are roasted over a fire, washed and cleaned then boiled in water and then salt, spice and a little vinegar are added. After that the heads are put in the oven where they are baked before being served on a platter.
This has earned Garlic & Flowers its rightful place within the food market as a provider of tantalising cuisines despite the restaurant being hidden behind the National Art Gallery and the National Theatre of Namibia.
Eating a well cooked goat head can be an amazing feat. It is one of those awkward moments that remind you of one’s African heritages when our elderly never let any piece of meat go to waste.
Normally, when eating a goat head, most people would go straight for the eyes, ears, jaws, tongue and brains.
To remove the eye from a baked goat head, you stick a fork right into it, twist and pull. Do not think about what you are doing. Just poke, twist, pull, pop it in your mouth, and chew.
Yes, that is a plate of goat heads right, and when you bite there is little resistance at first, then the eye and, uhmmm, the stuff hanging off the back all collapse between your teeth into an utterly unexpected and quite pleasing tasty sensation.
Moving onto the tongue and jaws, one should separate the lower jaw from the upper one and there one can cut out the tongue which by this time is sticking out rightly.
However I preferred not eating the tongue and I gave it instead to one of the friends in my company. In my Oshiwambo tradition, eating too much tongue meat can lead to more people talking about you (lol).
When it comes to the ears, all you need to do is stick the fork into the upper jaw and cut with a knife right at the juncture where the ear separates from the bone. There you find amazingly tasty meat, which when you chew it gives you some crispy feel in your mouth.
Next is the brain, yes the brain . . .Yum. It is my favourite, could not help it but dig it out right away. During my childhood I fought my younger brother just to make sure I got the big chunk out of it. Brain is a healthy delicacy.
The matangaras were tasty too. I also ate pap with the green bean soup.
Garlic & Flowers green bean soup is first boiled, then soaked and then put in a pot where the stirring happens with the addition of all the necessary ingredients such as salt, oil and garlic.
The restaurant has a consistent clientele base mainly revellers from the theatre and the gallery. It also plays host to numerous birthday parties and anniversaries.
Apart from African cuisines, the menu is fully stuffed with a range of dishes such as beef lasagne, grilled half chicken that are served with chips and salad, spaghetti bolognaise and seafood are also served at garlic & Flowers.
These days I am taking a particular interest in African cuisines and I strongly recommend that next time you take out your family for dinner, choose to try African food at Garlic & Flowers.
A goat head may just be what your family has been missing. Try it. I can still go for another one. Another goat head please! PF