Marathon chicken is an iconic Namibian dish. It originated among the Oshiwambo people of north-central Namibia. But it is not known if this was originally a rural or urban dish. Most probably, it is the latter, because it is served with a tomato and onion sauce. All these ingredients were much more available in urban areas.
The chicken is the key ingredient and tradition requires it to be a yardbird or roadrunner chicken. These are locally known as a ‘werfhoender’ or ‘marathon chicken’. These birds are lean, strong and tough. Thus, they require long cooking times. But, they are much sought after by local chicken lovers because they are flavourful.
Unfortunately, only a few restaurants other than the authentic traditional ones serve marathon chicken. It is difficult to find the right chicken and secure a regular supply thereof. This recipe combines the modern and the traditional. To combat the toughness of the bird, it is cooked low and slow using the sous vide technique.
Marathon chicken is an iconic Namibian dish. It originated among the Oshiwambo people of north-central Namibia. The chicken is the key ingredient in this dish. Tradition requires it to be a yardbird or roadrunner chicken – or as these chicken are also locally known, a werfhoender or marathon chicken. These birds are lean, strong and tough and require long cooking times.
1 whole chicken (preferably a yardbird or werfhoender), divided into quarters
1 cup marula oil
4 tablespoons chicken fat or schmaltz
4 bay leaves
4 juniper berries
4 twigs fresh thyme
- Preheat a water bath to 65.5℃. Put each of the four chicken pieces in a vacuum bag. Divide the herbs among the four bags and add a 1/4 cup oil and 1 tablespoon fat or schmaltz to each bag. Vacuum seal the bags. Add the bags to the water bath and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. If you are not going to serve the chicken immediately, place the bags in an ice bath to cool down. Once cooled the bags can be refrigerated until needed.
- If you’re going to serve the chicken, add about 1 tablespoon of marula oil to a hot pan. Sear the chicken until the skin is golden brown and crispy. Add the chicken to your sauce and leave for about 5 to 10 minutes at a low simmer. Garnish with fresh basil and serve with mahangu porridge or mahangu sponge bread.