Much like South Africa’s “Rainbow Nation” local cuisine is as diverse as the culture itself and is sometimes even referred to as “Rainbow Cuisine” due to the variety of flavours and textures. Traditional African food has emerged from colonisation and immigration by Dutch, German, Greek, Italian and British descendants and their Indo-Asian Slaves and has many similar characteristics, cooking styles and flavours from that of traditional food from Indonesia and Portuguese Mozambique. For my first article as a Restless Backpack writer I have compiled the top 10 South African foods for you to drool over. Before we start there were some that didn’t quite make the list but are still lekker (nice!) and deserve an honourable mention:
* Dry Wors Air Dried Sausage
* Peppermint Crisp Chocolate Bar
* Castle Lager Beer
* Ouma Rusks Dry biscuits often dunked in tea and coffee
* Sparletta Crème Soda A bright green fizzy beverage!
10. Bobotie (ba-boor-tea)
This national dish of South Africa is a delicious mixture of curried minced meat and fruit and baked with a creamy golden egg topping. Originating from the Cape Malay community from slaves from Dutch East India, this spicy dish goes very well with rice and fruit chutney.
9. Chakalaka (cha-ka-la-ka)
This spicy South African classic vegetable relish is made from chopping tomato, onion, grated carrot, chilli, garlic and grated cabbage together with copious amounts of hot curry powder to add a zing to almost every meal!
8. Vetkoek (fet-cook)
Vetkoek is (literally) a deep fried dough ball stuffed with cooked minced meat or spread with syrup, honey or jam. The perfect vetkoek has a crispy texture on the outside and a soft fluffy consistency on the inside. Has to be eaten warm! Warning- eating vetkoek will make your clothes shrink!
7. Melktert (malk-teirt)
Translated as “milk tart”, Melktert is an egg and sugar custard dessert prepared in a sweet pastry crust. Usually sprinkled with cinnamon, this tart has a light and fluffy consistency and distinct milk flavour and is always winner at Tea Parties!
6. Bunny Chow (Bunny-Chow)
Bunny Chow involves hollowing out half a loaf of bread and stuffing it with spicy curry made using traditional recipes from Durban: mutton or lamb, chicken, bean and chips with curry gravy are popular fillings now, although the original bunny chow was vegetarian. Bunny chows are often served with a side portion of grated carrot, chilli and onion salad, commonly known as sambals. A key characteristic of a bunny chow is created when gravy from the curry fillings soak into the walls of the bread, rounding the dish off with the fusion of flavours & textures. Bunny chows are mainly eaten using the fingers; it is unusual to see locals use utensils when eating this dish. Bunny chow is often presented to customers wrapped in yesterday’s newspapers.
The name “Bunny Chow” is said to have originated from a restaurant run by people known as Banias (an Indian caste) who first created the scooped-out bread and curry dish at a restaurant-cum-café called Kapitan’s on the corner of Victoria and Albert streets in Durban. The food was a means to serve takeaways to excluded people. During the apartheid regime, Indians were not allowed in certain shops and cafés and so the shop owners found an easy and effective way of serving the people through “back doors”. The traditional Indian meal was said to have been roti and beans, however roti’s tended to fall apart as a takeaway item. So they cut out the centre portion of the bread and filled it with curry and capped the filling with the portion that was cut out. The word “Chow” originates from the South African slang word for “food”.
5. Potjiekos (poy-kea-kors)
This meat and vegetable ensemble which resembles a stew is usually cooked outside in cast iron 3 legged cauldrons over hot coals.
In this “magic” little “potjie” pot (“potjie” literally meaning “small pot” in Afrikaans) the food practically prepares itself….
4. Koeksister (Cook-sister)
Similar to Vetkoek, Koeksisters are a gooey, sweet, syrupy and very sticky sweet treat! Made of a plaited, doughnut type pastry they should be crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Although also deep fried, the cooked dough is dunked into homemade syrup and served chilled! Warning- extremely addictive!
3. Boerewors (Boo-rah-vors)
Boerewors is type of a sausage made either from minced beef or lamb or both and usually spiced with blends of nutmeg, coriander, cloves and black pepper. The word boerewors comes from the Afrikaans words boer (meaning “farmer”) and wors (meaning “sausage”). Like many other forms of sausage, boerewors contains a high proportion of fat, and is preserved with salt and vinegar, and packed in sausage casings. Traditional boerewors is usually formed into a continuous spiral. Boerewors is usually “braaied” (barbecued outdoors), but may be grilled in an electric griller. Alternatively it can also be baked in an oven.
A local variant of the hotdog is the “boerie roll”, or “boerewors roll”. This is a piece of boerewors in a hotdog bun, often served with a tomato, chilli and onion relish.
2. Malva Pudding
Malva Pudding is a delectable, sweet pudding of Cape Dutch origin, usually made with apricot jam and has a moist yet spongy, caramelised texture. There are also many variants of this dessert, namely, the Cape Brandy Pudding which also includes brandy and dates and the Tipsy Tart which contains only brandy. Serve hot, with fresh cream, ice cream or vanilla custard.
1. Biltong (Bill-Tong)
Biltong is undoubtedly South Africa’s most unique food! Similar to “jerky” it is a kind of cured, air dried meat. Many different kinds of meat are used to make biltong from game meat to fillets of ostrich to beef! The typical process of preparing biltong is to cut up raw strips of fillet on the grain of the muscle then marinating it in a type of vinegar solution for a few hours. This marinade is then poured over the meat for flavour. The meat is then typically spiced with equal amounts of rock salt, whole coriander, slightly roasted and roughly ground black pepper and brown sugar and rubbed on the meat where it is left for a few hours before it is slow dried in cold air, wooden boxes or climate controlled dry rooms for approximately 4 days.
Biltong is generally eaten as a snack but can be added to a wide variety of foods including stews, breads, muffins and pizza’s.