Stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, dramatic mountain ranges and attractive beaches make South Africa a very inviting holiday destination. The country is a melting pot of a great diversity of cultures which is why it’s also named ‘The Rainbow Nation’. This cultural mix has had a strong influence on South African food. Traditional South African dishes have been mixed . All in all, I can say that South Africa has an amazing cuisine, with lots of variations, flavours as well as a rich diversity in the ways of preparation of these dishes.
Top 7 of the more popular South African food dishes you should really try during your visit
When in the country there are many traditional South African food dishes one should try. However, there are a few that will stand out and which you will really need to try before leaving the country. Maybe you will even be brave enough and might try the Mopane Worms, which is one of the traditional South African dishes that is more popular in the rural areas. I have created a list of some of the more popular food in South Africa.
South Africa Food Guide
Boerewors is a typical South African sausage, mostly packed as a continuous spiral. The word is derived from Dutch and means ‘farmers sausage’. It contains very lean minced meat, mainly beef, but can also be made from game meat or pork or a combination of the two. What makes Boerewors so special is the use of a blend of authentic flavours and spices, like nutmeg, coriander, black pepper and cloves, mixed with the meat. It comes with so many different variations and flavours. Basically, one can say that not one Boerewors tastes the same. Boerewors is very popular on any South African braai and is a popular street food at festivals and sports events. A nice piece of Boerewors is typical South African food and should definitely be tried at any South African braai.
Bobotie or Cape Malay Curry
Traditionally, Bobotie is an Indonesian dish that was probably brought to South Africa by the Dutch. It consists of a sweet and spicy mince curry topped with an egg mixture.
Nowadays, there are various ways and recipes to prepare Bobotie. In general, it should normally contain bay leaves, some dried fruit (I always use raisins), chutney and curry powder. The sweetness of the chutney and dried fruit contrasts very nicely with the tangy flavour of the curry powder.
Bobotie is some really traditional food in South Africa and very popular. I have cooked it many times for tourists and it is always one of the highlights. It is also called a Cape Malay curry because when it was taken to South Africa it was adopted by the Cape Malay community who mainly live in Cape Town. It is currently part of the South African cuisine.
Bobotie has become a signature dish in South Africa, mixing local and exotic flavours. Typically it is served with yellow basmati rice.
Bunny Chow originates from Durban, which is on the east coast of South Africa. It was created by the large Indian immigrant population in the Durban area and served for lunch. It is a hollowed out quarter or half loaf of bread filled up with a tasty Indian curry made from beans or meat (mutton, beef or chicken). The bread is used as a dish to hold the curry, which is then broken off into small pieces and used to dip in the curry.
Nowadays, Bunny Chow has become popular around the country as street food of South Africa, and is even booming in the United Kingdom.
Potjiekos is another traditional and of the more popular South African foods. Potjiekos means ‘food out of a pot’, or just ‘pot food’. It is a stew cooked in layers, not stirred, in a three legged cast iron pot over an open fire. The whole idea of this way of preparation is slow cooking. Potjiekos may take up to three hours to cook and sometimes even more, depending on the meat one is using, and the size of the pot. One single pot can be big enough to feed up to 200 people and take 24 hours to cook.
Any type of meat, fish or vegetables can be used for this dish. It’s a fun way of cooking, where everyone sits around the fire and pot, and has a drink, or 2 or 3, until the food is ready.
I love cooking in a potjiepot, since there is so much opportunity for variation and so many flavours one can try out. It’s a very relaxing way of cooking where everyone enjoys the aromas coming off the pot while socialising and having a drink together.
The South African Braai
A braai is the South African answer to a barbecue. However, it’s more than just grilling on coals, it’s a way of life. Every South African loves to braai, it’s a very social activity with some rules.
Generally, the men are in charge of the braai and all gather around the fire, while the woman are preparing the rest of the food in the kitchen. Any type of meat can be used, Boerewors, beef, pork, game meat and lamb. Very nice on any braai is Karoo Lamb, which has a very authentic South African flavour.
It’s so popular that they even proclaimed a National Braai Day on the 24th of September, claiming every South African should braai on that day. (Heritage Day)
Snoek is a fish that is caught off the coast of the Western and Eastern Cape. It’s a type of snake mackerel and can be eaten in various ways. Fresh Snoek however is perfect to braai on an open grill. The traditional way to prepare is with apricot jam or chutney and wrapped in aluminium foil. I also like it when it’s prepared with a mix of garlic butter, rosemary and lemon. The fish has so much flavour and is really delicious to eat. This is another great and popular South African dish.
Melktert or Milktart
I’m not a fan of deserts at all. Most sweet flavours will not seduce my tastebuds. However, I will always accept a piece of Milktart. It’s the Dutch answer to the traditional custard tart. It’s more milky sprinkled with lot’s of cinnamon. It’s really delicious.
What was your most favourite South African dish? Which one would you definitely add to this list?
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