Cooking with Matemba (Zimbambwean Small Dried Fish)

Raw Matemba

The lady that always does my braids, Sarah, she would encourage me to try out the food from her hometownZimbabwe.  I asked her to bring me some Matembas and she did…..

Matemba are very small dried fish from Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe.  They are a good and a reasonably priced source of protein.  Zimbabweans serve them with Sadza (pap) and veggies.   One needs to soak the fish in warm water before cooking to remove some of the salt.  Some suggest soaking it twice.  If soaked in boiling water the fish becomes mushy.

After soaking, Matemba are usually cooked with an onion and tomato.  Some people add peanut butter and call this dish Matemba ane Dovi.  Another way of preparing them is by coating them with flour and then fry them.  The coated and fried Matemba are served as snack.

In South Africa, they are available at the township markets e.g. SwaziInn, Tembisa.  I’ve also seen them at African food shops (I’ve seen them in one shop at Golden Acre), taxi ranks e.g. Belville station.


Matemba and Beans On a Portuguese Roll Served with Rocket Leaves

Serves: 3- 4

250ml (1cup) Kapenta / Matemba

15ml (1Tbsp) olive oil

1 onion, chopped

½ half a green pepper, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

5ml (1tsp) medium curry powder

2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

125ml (½ cup) beans in tomato sauce

2 – 3 Tbsp tomato paste

30ml (2Tbsp) chutney

100ml boiling water


  1. Soak Matemba in warm water (not boiling) twice.
  2. Heat oil and cook onion until golden brown.
  3. Add green pepper, garlic, curry powder and continue cooking for another two minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes, beans, tomato paste, chutney and water.   Lower the heat and simmer for 5 or 10 minutes or until Matembas are soft.

Author Info


Thuli Gogela is a Food Technologist with 8 years of experience developing products in food manufacturing. She is dedicated to discovering wholesome traditional dishes and recipes with a distinctive taste from different parts of the African continent. Thuli is well known for her food blog, Mzansi Style Cuisine which was established in 2010. She saw a gap in the traditional food market that people were hungry for. From there, it didn’t take long to build her brand. In 2013, she started writing a recipe column for the Cape Times for and has collaborated with some of the biggest brands in South Africa namely, Knorr, Nedeburg Wines, First Choice and Spekko rice. Not only does Thuli feature traditional African dishes, she’s also open to developing recipes, food consultations and brand collaborations.

Comments ( 9 )

  • Interesting, Thuli. They look even smaller than whitebait, which are a traditional fish eaten whole in the UK. What do they taste like?

  • We have a similar fish in Kenya, omena, that we cook. They are probably exactly the same but we get ours from lake victoria. Some prefer the saltiness and some soak it off. Thanks for sharing more regional food

    Adhis, Chef Afrik

    • Hi Adhis! Thanks for stepping by! They are the same, each country gives them a different name. I would love to visit Kenya some time! xxxx

  • It sounds delicious! Never tasted these, however but I will definitely seek them!

    • I’ve got an extra bag for you Zirkie! I’ll find a way to send it to you!

      • Rich

        Hi Thuli, Do you know where I can get some Matemba in the Durban area?

  • Collen

    Actually they look more mnandi than the way they do them back home!!! Find a market for them Thuli and I will surely import them for us!!!

  • Sindile solomon Vanqa

    Hi Sisi my name is Sindile Vanqa from Cape town married to Zambian lady I use to hate the smell but after I asked her to give me some wow I eat kapenta almost every week they are Delicious

    • Hi Sindile, appreciate your comment. That’s very interesting. Has your wife introduced you to Chikanda? I’d love to taste it, it’s an ‘African Polony’ from Zambia.

      Thuli xx

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