A GUIDE TO AFRICA
TRADITIONAL SOUTH AFRICAN FOOD
If you haven’t picked up on it yet with our Authentic African Food and Foodies Guide to Cape Town posts, South Africans are very food-oriented. We love to eat! The beauty of our colourful and diverse cultures means we have a variety of diverse and delicious foods. Here are some South African dishes you can’t afford not to try:
At any braai or gathering in South Africa, biltong is most likely to be present. It’s the South African go-to snack and is essentially strips of cured meat. Biltong is said to have originated from migrating African tribesmen who would place strips of venison under their horses’ saddles to tenderise and spice it. Traditionally, it is spiced with vinegar, salt, sugar, and coriander (cilantro), and then air dried. Biltong can be made from many types of meat, most commonly beef, but you also find kudu, springbok and ostrich biltong.
Boerewors is one of many South Africans’ favourite foods. Derived from Afrikaans, it means ‘farmer sausage’. It is the staple part of every braai and is delicious on a roll with tomato sauce/ketchup and relish. It is so special to South Africa that it is protected by law! According to legislation, there are only five ingredients permitted in traditional boerewors:
- Meat (at least 90%)
- Cereal products
- Vinegar, spices, herbs and salt
- Permitted food additives
Mieliepap or Pap is one of South Africa’s most diverse and staple foods. It is made from softly ground maize and eaten across all cultures in South Africa. It is essentially the South African polenta. Traditionally, pap is made outside in a black cast-iron pot over a fire. It has a slightly gritty texture and when made traditionally a smoky flavour from the fire. It can be eaten at breakfast with milk and sugar, or alongside boerewors and chakalaka at a braai.
Chakalaka is a spicy relish unique to South Africa. It is said to originate from when African miners threw everything they had from onions, carrots and chillies to curry spices, coriander and baked beans in a pot and let it simmer until a thick relish was formed. It is served as a sauce or relish over dishes such as pap, or on its own as a cold salad with greens.
Vetkoek / Amagwinya
Another classic traditional South African food is vetkoek / amagwinya (meaning Fat Cake). It is a traditional Afrikaans and Zulu dish made from flour, water, sugar and salt formed into small balls and deep-fried. Like pap, it can be eaten both as a sweet or savoury dish. It is usually served hot with savoury mince but is equally delicious with butter and apricot jam.