South Africa, fondly referred to as the “Rainbow Nation,” boasts a vibrant, multicultural culinary heritage. Influenced by native African, European, and Asian cuisines, the country’s food scene is as diverse as its people. Here are top tips for food lovers venturing to South Africa.
1. Sample the ‘Braai’ Culture
The heart of South African food culture lies in ‘braai,’ or barbecue. Gathering around an open fire, cooking meats like ‘boerewors’ (a farmer’s sausage), steaks, or ‘sosaties’ (marinated, skewered meat) is a favourite pastime. Don’t miss the ‘Braai Day’ celebrations on September 24th!
2. Explore Local Markets
Visiting local food markets is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture. Markets like the Neighbourgoods Market in Johannesburg or the Oranjezicht City Farm Market in Cape Town offer fresh local produce, homemade goods, and street food.
3. Try Traditional Dishes
Bite into a slice of ‘biltong,’ a dried, cured meat snack, or enjoy a hearty serving of ‘potjiekos,’ a slow-cooked meat and vegetable stew. Don’t skip ‘pap,’ a staple maize porridge, best enjoyed with ‘chakalaka,’ a spicy vegetable relish.
4. Savor Seafood in Coastal Cities
South Africa’s coastal cities offer fresh seafood. Try ‘snoek,’ a local type of fish, in Cape Town, or the famous ‘prawns peri-peri’ in Durban. For a true South African experience, have a ‘fish braai’ on the beach.
5. Embrace Bunny Chow
Despite the name, no bunnies are harmed in the making of ‘bunny chow.’ This Durban specialty is a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with spicy curry – a delicious, no-frills street food that packs a punch.
6. Experience the Wine Culture
South Africa is a renowned wine-producing country. Visit the vineyards of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek for world-class wine tastings. Pair a bottle of Pinotage, a homegrown red wine, with local cheese.
7. Indulge in Sweet Treats
For dessert, try ‘malva pudding,’ a sweet, sticky treat of Dutch origin, or ‘koeksisters,’ syrup-coated braided donuts. ‘Melktert,’ a cinnamon-sprinkled custard pie, is another must-try.
8. Celebrate with Festive Foods
During festive periods, enjoy special dishes like ‘pickled fish’ during Easter or ‘boeber,’ a sweet, spiced milk and vermicelli drink during Ramadan.
9. Respect Dietary Customs
South Africa’s diversity means varied dietary customs. In respect to others, ask about dietary restrictions when sharing meals, and be open to new food experiences.
10. Enjoy Rooibos Tea
No South African food guide would be complete without mentioning rooibos tea. This antioxidant-rich, caffeine-free tea is a national treasure and the perfect end to any meal.
Whether you’re a food adventurer or a comfort food lover, South Africa’s gastronomic scene is sure to thrill. With these tips, you’re all set for an exciting South African culinary journey. Enjoy!