South African Street Food: Walkie Talkies

Remember when that unlucky lady from Virginia found an entire “nuggified” chicken head in her McNuggets box? I do, because it was horrifying. That was the year 2000, and the memory stuck with me ever since.

Yes, instead of a standard, bite-sized dough ball of puréed chicken innards- also known as the “McNugget” -Katherine Ortega pulled out something much worse: the fried head of a chicken, complete with beak, eyes and comb (yeah, that odd dangley red thing).

Bawk from the dead.

Bawk from the dead.

In some sense the scandal was a bit of a relief, since it meant that real chickens actually have something to do with chicken nuggets. Plus, the animated classic Chicken Run was released several months after the incident. Coincidence? I think not.

Suffice it to say, I’m not a huge fan of intact chicken extremities lurking where I can see and/or eat them accidentally. I am a brash, unapologetic carnivore, but a hypocritical one too. Respect my hypocrisy, McDonalds! (Chicken Run brings up some things I thought I’d buried, but I digress…)

Today, the nugget-head fiasco came crashing back into my mind’s eye when I learned about South African “Walkie Talkies.” No, not those bulky things from Radio Shack that everyone thought were awesome until they invented the damn cellphone. Far from a non-nausea-inducing albeit dated communication device, Walkie Talkies are a type of South African street food.

Ingeniously named, this meal consists solely of chicken legs and chicken heads, complete with beaks and combs and feet. (You got it, right?) They take the legs and heads and necks and put them in hot water, so the skin can be peeled off. Then they slather the walkies and the talkies with seasoning (hopefully a lot of it) and grill ’em up.


Head over heels

Head over heels


Here’s a lesson in relativism for us all. Just think: “nuggethead-gate” wouldn’t even have been a thing in South Africa, since people eat this stuff all the time, on purpose. They pay for it actually, but not too much.

Walkie talkies are street food, and they’re super cheap. Because of their low cost, they’re most often served in townships with high concentrations of workers, though apparently they are a must-have on any South African road trip.

(Listen to Lou, you betta’ walk and talk it.)

According to my research, WT’s are best eaten hot off an open fire. According to my stomach, they’re best eaten not at all. At the end of the day though, they really can’t be worse than a McNugget, right?

All I know is that next time I watch Chicken Run, I’m going to root that much harder for Rocky, Ginger, Babs, Fowler and the crew… I might even cry. But I will not go vegetarian. That would make far too much sense.


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