Driving along M1 Road going to Lilongwe from Blantyre just after passing Senzani, you will see a lot of people along the side of the road holding loads of mbewa (mice) impaled to sticks, which they sell to passing vehicles.
Mbewa is such a delicious food as described by the man who has been in the business for 10 years. Steve Bintoni sells his mbewa at Chimpini area in Traditional Authority (T/A) Phambala in Ntcheu District.
Last year, President Peter Mutharika urged Malawians to start eating mbewa and zicheche. Such words boosted Bintoni’s business.
Stopping at Chimpini, you will be welcomed by a lot of men with mice in their hands. They will convince you with all delicious words and names till you buy one.
“Boss tiguleni soseji yapansi iyi [this is an underground sausage],” said the 27-year-old Bintoni. To a person who has never tasted mbewa, Bintoni will convince you to eat and never regret.
“This is delicious food. It has enough protein and all the vitamins you can ask for. I would prefer to eat mbewa to goat meat,” he convinced me.
Experts have never come up with any diseases that one could get from eating mbewa.
Being recommended by the Malawi President, I had to buy it. So I requested three sticks each being charged at K300. This is akapuku species.
“We have different species of mbewa. The common ones are akapuku. We also have kapeta, this is known for its oily flesh and ease of eating. We have madondwe. They are large squirrels. They are known for being difficult to catch, but lean and flavourful.”
How to process the ‘sausage’?
To Bintoni, mbewa is caught and roasted over a fire. “After catching them, we take out the intestines. And we put them in a pot with salt.”
He makes sure that it should not be roasted long enough to burn off the copious amounts of visible fur. “Mind you, we do not remove the fur.”
“After roasting, we put them to a stick. Then we garnish them with salt and cayenne pepper and gnaw on them like jerky, consuming them completely, bones and all. Other people prefer the dried one, so you can put them the sun.”
How to catch mbewa?
According to Bintoni, there are many ways of catching mbewa, depending on the species. Most often, though, children turn over piles of corn husks and grass refuse to disperse the mice and then kill them with sticks.
Other methods include setting fires at the entrance of holes to smoke them out. With the smoke, the mice are always dizzy and easily killed as they exit. This is apparently the preferred method for the larger species.
Time to kill mbewa
Mostly, people prefer to kill mbewa just after the harvest period which is from April till August.
“Now the season is going to an end. Anytime soon we will be winding up the season. And in this period you should expect the hiking of prices from K100 each to K200 or above,” said Bintoni.n