Appetites: African delicacy biltong brings flavors of Zambia and Zimbabwe to Minnesota

Biltong is made through a traditional African process of marinating and then air-drying meat for preservation.

three men hold packages of biltong
(From left to right) Mwila Kapungulya, Ranga Chinongoza and Henry Muchineripi founded Zambezi Biltong as a way to introduce African flavors and tradition to Minnesota.
Courtesy Zambezi Biltong

Beef jerky is sold practically everywhere. But a new product is hitting the shelves across the Twin Cities that adds a traditional African twist to the popular snack.

a closeup on packages of Zambezi Biltong
Zambezi Biltong is marinated, air-dried beef — similar to beef jerky — but it's a traditional African preparation once used out of necessity in order to preserve meat after long hunts.
Courtesy of Zambezi Biltong

Biltong is made by marinating and then air-drying meat, once used in Africa as a necessity to preserve the meat after long hunts. Throughout the years, the delicacy has shifted from a way to survive to a method to connect with family and friends. Today, biltong’s accessibility in Africa is similar to that of jerky here — sold in grocery stores and small markets, even at breweries and public gathering spaces.

Mwila Kapungulya of Savage, Minn., was born and raised in Zambia but moved to Minnesota when he was 17. During his time living here, he connected with two other African men — Ranga Chinongoza and Henry Muchineripi, both from neighboring Zimbabwe.

Together, the three discovered a shared desire to connect their lives in Africa with their adopted homes here in Minnesota and decided biltong would be the perfect way to bring a little African flavor and tradition to the Midwest.

“[The flavors] are more linked to Southern African cuisine, also known as the rainbow cuisine,” Kapungulya said. “They have that earthiness that, you know, coriander, rosemary, black pepper, salt. … And then we also have the moto moto, which in Bantu language means fire fire. That's the literal translation.”

Kapungulya said they have a third flavor in the works that they expect to release in the coming months.

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