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A guide to MUST EAT South African food

A guide to MUST EAT South African food

South Africa is a rainbow nation well more like a rainbow cake in my opinion filled with all sorts of wonderful tastes. South African food is soul food , food passed down through generations cooked in simple kitchens using basic equipment and ingredients.Each cultural group in South Africa have brought their culinary expertise to the table in creating a wide variety of amazingly delicious must eat dishes around the country With the Heritage Day Holiday coming up soon what  better way than to share our heritage through our food. Besides all the amazing things to see and do in South Africa   here are a list of dishes you must eat.

Be prepared when visiting South Africa that you might pile on a few extra kilos as the food and wine are utterly divine. For many South Africans , meat is the centre of the meal and this is clearly reflected in the list below. South Africans are rather fortunate to have access to fruit ,vegetables ,meat and seafood all homegrown.Regional cuisine is still very popular with locals and dishes are influenced by the ingredients grown locally.Seversal South  African foods are braaied which is definitely a cultural thing in SA.

The South African food scene is rather interesting as it include a variety of eateries from the high-end ,fusion ,street food and food markets.Locals are keen to try out new flavours and dishes.Like all food stories each dish has a history and a memory.Food is an important part of any culture and a great way to learn about a culture and country is to eat your way through the kitchens of locals.Food tours are rather popular and especially in the Cape Wine regions , small towns big on flavour with amazing offerings GO EAT Stellenbosch ! 

South African Food you MUST EAT

1. Amagwinga is a traditional African savoury doughnut.It best can be described by the Afrikaans name Vetkoek which roughly translates into fat cake.A dough mixture is made and deep-fried till golden brown (tip here is to use Olive Oil for a healthier version and I here Olive Pride works well.).The fried ball of goodness is cut open and filled with a slice of cheese and polony(local cold meat). Another version is filled with a savoury mince and topped with cheese.
At work this is a popular meal option for my students as it is relatively cheap and rather filling.The first time I tried this did not have it with any fillings but ask for some sugar so I could dip it in and it became a sweet doughnut.I am yet to try the savoury mince option but will give it a try.

2.Melktert with origins from the Dutch. This dessert is a firm favourite in all South African homes. It is a short crust sweet pastry that is filled with a vanilla custard and topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon.The dessert has now become a cocktail shooter with its unique flavour. Milktart can be readily found in all supermarkets and bakeries.

3.Braai /Sisha Nyama is a popular way to entertain friends and family. It is a great way to socialize over the casually. A braai consists of various meats like steaks, sausages , chicken and lamb chops all cooked over a charcoal fire. The word braaivleis is Afrikaans for “roasted meat.”
The word braai (pronounced “bry”, rhyming with the word “cry”; plural braais) is Afrikaans for “barbecue” or “roast” and is a social custom in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It originated with the Afrikaner people, but has since been adopted by South Africans of many ethnic backgrounds. The word vleis is Afrikaans for “meat”.The word has been adopted by English-speaking South Africans and can be regarded as another word for barbecue, in that it serves as a verb when describing how food is cooked and a noun when describing the cooking equipment, such as a grill. The traditions around a braai can be considerably different from a barbecue, however, even if the method of food preparation is very similar.

Shisa Nyama is a term used in many South African townships to describe a barbecue or braai where people (friends or families) come together to grill meat in an open fire usually near a butchery. The site is usually provided by the butcher owner and only people who buy meat from the butcher are allowed to use the facility. Shisa nyama is a Zulu phrase and, literally, means to “burn meat”. Shisa Nyamas are becoming a popular tourist place to visit for the Township culture and experience. Max’s Lifestyle in Durban is a popular haunt for locals and tourists and hosts several tourism functions here on a regular basis , while in  Cape Town Mzsolis.

4.Chakalaka is a an accompaniment to a braai. It is a spicy sauce made with tinned baked beans, grated carrots, and sliced peppers. Usually served with pap which is a stiff maize dish or bread. The variations on this dish occur according to location and family.

5.Bunny Chow a local Durban speciality. Said to be invented by the indentured labourers who came from India to work on the sugar plantations for the British.It  consists of an unsliced loaf of bread cut into either a 1/4 , 1/2 or left whole the middle of the bread is hollowed out and filled with a curry. The bunny chow was said to be the container that the labourers used to carry their food in. Over time it has become a popular meal choice for locals and tourists and is eaten with your hands. There is an art involved in eating a bunny chow and it simply can not be eaten with a knife and fork. The fillings include lamb, chicken , mixed vegetable and bean curries most popular takeaways have this dish on their menu. It is packaged in white paper like a parcel and comes with a small packet of carrot salad soaked in vinegar.

6.Durban Curry there is nowhere else in the world you will find an authentic Durban Curry than in Durban. Curries around the world have their own distinctive flavour and aromas and the Durban Curry too holds its own rather well. A combination of high quality spices and the fresh ingredients and recipes passed on from generation to generation are some of the keys to a good Durban Curry. As people moved around the world they have taken their recipes with them and created versions of home in their new homes. But there is just something about a Durban curry cooked by a Durban person that you can not fault. Durban curries are well spiced , and flavoured with curry leaves and coriander. Often characterised by the melting potatoes , thickened gravy and melting off the bone meat with just the right amount of oil is often served with rice , in a bunny chow or with roti. Check out my recipe here

7.Cape Malay Curry hails from the Cape Malay community. In the 17th century slaves from India and Indonesia  people were brought to Cape Town.These people became known as the Cape Malays , with them they brought their own unique cooking styles and dishes. Cape Malay curry is known for combining sweet and savory flavors–using sweet spices like cinnamon and ginger, dried fruit (especially dried apricots), and savory seasonings like garlic and onions. Very different to the Durban Curry , this cuisine of the Cape Malay must be tried.

8.Bobotie is a South African mince dish that is baked with a savoury egg custard topping. The mince is flavoured with Cape Malay spices and often has nuts and raisins added to it. Bobotie is a traditional Afrikaner dish and is popular in Cape Town.The dish is eaten with fruit chutney , sambals and yellow rice.I am not a fan of mixing my fruit with my savoury dish and was not keen to try out this dish until a last year when I tasted the Jenny Morris version of it and found it rather tasty.

9. Malva Pudding   a dessert that is found on most restaurant menus and is made in many homes throughout South Africa.This is a warmed sponge dessert served with ice-cream or custard it can be eaten cold in Summer but warm in winter with hot custard.The origins of malva pudding are Dutch. The  Dutch colonists brought the pudding to South Africa when they arrived, during their Dutch East India explorations, in the mid-1600s.Using Apricot Jam in this  recipe makes it a firm favourite of both young and old.

10.Biltong is a form of dried meat  that is cured with spices. Made from using all kinds of  meat including game meat this form of meat preservation.Fillets of meat cut into strips following the grain of the muscle, or flat pieces sliced across the grain. It is related to beef jerky in that they are both spiced, dried meats, however the typical ingredients, taste and production processes differ; in particular the main difference is that Biltong is typically much less sweet than the  American cousin jerky. It is a popular snack food and is high in protein. Spices are used to not only flavour the meat but also to preserve the meat in days gone by the local tribes used this method of preservation to store their meats. Now days we get Biltong in a variety of flavours and meats including a vegetarian option of it some of the meat options include chicken, lamb, bacon and beef. Biltong is often given to babies to chew on during teething.

11.Snoek is a type of fish that is found in Cape Town. This fish is used in  Traditional Cape Malay cooking. It is a popular fish for it’s distinctive flavour and is often found in most Cape Town fish shops. Best served fried in batter with chips or a snoek braai it is one of the dishes all visitors to Cape Town must try.This fish is also salted and preserved.

12.Potjiekos literally transaleted means a small pot of food.This South African meal is cooked on an open fire in a three-legged cast iron pot. It is a method of slow cooking and includes meat and vegetables which is cooked into a stew. The main difference between a stew and potjiekos i.e. in a potjie you do not stir. The reason for this is so that the flavour from the meat at the bottom can flavour all the vegetables above while slow cooking. If the potjie is made properly you should still be able to see and taste all the ingredients separately as well as a delicious whole. Little sauce or water is used, so that cooking is by steam and not boiling in a sauce like a stew; thus the heat must be very low and constant. These are some of the secrets of each cook. A potjie is a social activity, with guests generally engaging in fireside chitchat while the potjie cooks usually over some drinks, typically this takes  three to six hours to cook.

13. Mealie bread  is a traditional steamed bread  made from green mealies or sweetcorn. This bread is best eaten with lashings of butter straight out the oven. The various cultural groups in South Africa all make their own version of this bread.

14.Braaibroodjies can best be described as a toasted cheese sandwich made on the braai.The first time I tried this divine accompaniment to a braai was in London yes and not South Africa. During my time in London I was friends with a group of South Africans from all over SA. Entertaining and food was a big thing and often we would make dishes from home that we missed. AND this was where I had my first taste of a traditional and typical Braaibroodjies. To make a braaibroodjie you need two slices of white bread, slices of cheese, slices of tomato , slices of onion , butter and salt and pepper. A normal sandwich is assembles with the outer slices getting buttered before it is put onto the braai stand to grill until it is golden on both sides. This can be simple or extravagant as you want as you could include pesto , fruit chutney , artisanal bread and flavoured butters. But for me the simple traditional braaibroodjie is for me.

15.Masala Pineapple a childhood favourite of mine which reminds me of days at the beach. This unusual but very delicious dish is a uniquely Durban treat. It is slices of sweet pineapple sprinkled with masala yes you heard right masala the one used in curries. This flavour combination works really well mixing the sweet and hot flavours together.As a child I recall having a messy face while eating slices of the spicy pineapple on a skewer and enjoying every bite. I was rather impressed that a local Durban eatery now has a Masala Pineapple cocktail on the menu inspired by this local speciality. 

16. Frikkadels l is a traditional Afrikaans dish comprising usually baked, but sometimes deep-fried meatballs..It is made from lightly spiced (salt and pepper) minced beef, mixed with white bread (soaked in milk and then squeezed out), finely chopped onion and beaten egg. To make it more spicy, a few dashes of Tabasco sauce, some finely chopped garlic, or a finely chopped chilli or two could be added. Try it on a “braai” (barbecue), absolutely delicious. Every cultural group within SA have their version of this recipe here is mine

17. Sosasties  are a good example of the Malay influence on South Africa’s cuisine. The word ‘sosatie” comes from the Indonesian words “sesate” (skewered meat) and “sate” (spicy sauce). They are a unique example of an original Cape Malay Muslim dish that did not contain pork, but sheep-tail fat.

The true Cape Malay “sosaties” are made with small pieces of lamb, threaded on thin wooden skewers, with small cubes of sheep-tail fat or bacon or speck (preferred by non-muslims), onion and apricot in between.The meat and the fat is marinated for up to 24 hours in a mixture of fried onions, apricot jam, garlic, pepper, salt, curry powder, turmeric, bay leaves, sugar and vinegar, to create the true “sosatie” flavour. If other kinds of meat or fruits are used, it’s not a true sosatie, but rather a kebab. The wooden skewers are then grilled or braaied and often glazed with a apricot jam mix.
18.Breyani a rice dish brought to South Africa by the Indians. The dish is a mix of layered rice, spicy meat, lentils or vegetables.Breyani’s are generally made for special occasions and each region and family has their own special recipe. Generally served with a lentil dhall , a grated carrot salad and a yoghurt raita.It can be a very simple dish or a very elaborate one. Breyani is one of those dishes that require a second helping  Check out my recipe here 

We South Africans love our food be it street food , home cooked , fusion or fine dining, this list is just a small bite of what one can eat in South Africa. They say the way to learn about a country is to meet the locals and eat their food well this is the perfect way for one to learn about South Africa , her people and culture.

Be Inspired !



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