Traditional South African food is numerous and diverse. Due to colonization and apartheid, South Africa is among the most multilingual countries in the world.
South Africa is called the Rainbow Nation because of its diverse culture. South Africa has 11 official languages.
This diversity also influences her food. Traditional South African food migrated to South Africa along with people from all over the world.
Dishes from across the globe migrated to the country and evolved while remaining respectful of their origin.
Traditional South African food is influenced by Africans, Germans, Dutch, French, Malaysians, and even Indians.
Moreover, this article will discuss some traditional South African food and the ingredients that make them unique.
Bobotie’s origin is disputed. The Roman writer Apicius recorded a dish similar to Bobotie. Also, the Dutch recorded the recipe in 1609 that migrated to South Africa.
Bobotie is minced meat spiced with medium-heat curry, salt, pepper, garlic, turmeric, onions, herbs, raisins, and lemon zest.
It is baked until fully cooked. Then it is garnished with egg and milk mixture; then placed back in the oven to set.
Additionally, the meat could either be lamb or beef, which is the dish’s main ingredient.
2. Biltong and Droewors
Biltong and Droewors are dried meat. This dish is one of the most loved dishes in South Africa. It is a spicy snack. Initially, this dish originated in the early 19th century as a way of preserving meat.
Biltong is beef cuts soaked with vinegar, salt, and spices, then hung to dry and cure.
While droewors go through a similar process as Biltong, the difference is that ground beef mince and mutton fat is mixed with spice to make thin sausage.
In addition, chicken, wild boar, ostrich, etc., could make Biltong and Droewors in place of beef.
Bokkom is dried fish. It is another traditional South African food eaten as a snack. However, it could also be served with pasta and soups.
Bukkom is a salted mullet fish placed in the sun to dry and served whole. The fish is not diced.
Potjiekos is translated to food made in a pot. The flavor of this food is obtained from potjie, Dutch oven, and the cooking process.
Potjiekos is a stew; meat with a bit of sauce is layered with fresh vegetables. The pot containing the ingredients is cooked on low heat on a small fire outdoors.
When cooking potjiekos, the lifting of the lid is limited so the dish can retain its heat and moisture. Additionally, the number of layers and chunky meat at the bottom of the pot determines the cooking time.
Potjiekos is not stirred. Even when the dish is ready, it is scooped from the bottom.
5. Ostrich egg Omelette
Ostrich is eaten in South Africa, and either meat or egg is used for most traditional South African food. As the name implies, this dish is an omelet made with ostrich egg instead of chicken egg.
Moreover, this dish has a lot of health benefits. It is sweet, intense, and has a buttery flavor. Ostrich egg omelet is a popular traditional South African food.
Additionally, just one egg can serve many people because an ostrich’s egg is ginormous and weighs about 5 pounds.
6. Malva pudding
Malva pudding is a famous South African dessert. It originates from the Cape, and the Dutch are believed to be the ones who developed it.
It is a sweet, sticky, spongy-textured cake that is caramelized and covered with a creamy sauce.
Malva pudding’s unique flavor is a result of apricot jam and vinegar. Furthermore, malva pudding is best eaten warm, straight out of the oven, and vanilla ice cream is served.
Biryani means fried before cooking in Persian. It is made with Indian spices, rice, and meat.
However, the dish could be made with fish, goat, prawn, lamb, or pork. As the name translates, the rice and meat are mixed after cooking.
This dish recently gained popularity in the country. Lentils and vegetables are sometimes added to twist the dish.
Boerewors is a popular traditional South African food. It means farmer sausage. Boerewors looks like regular sausage.
However, it contains 90% meat, and the other 10% is spiced, such as black pepper, coriander, etc. Boerewors is minced beef, pork, and lamb added for flavor, packed in a continuous spiral.
Additionally, the meat used for boerewors must not contain more than 30% fat. Traditionally, boerewors are cooked over a fire outdoors, and their casing is not pricked while cooking. This is to prevent the juice from running out.
Pap is also called mealie pap. This dish is not only a traditional South African food. Its variation is quite popular across the continent.
Moreover, this coarse maize meal is cheap, does not need to be refrigerated, and stays fresh for an extended period, making it popular in many households.
The maize is cooked with water. The ratio of the water to the maize depends on the thickness required. For stywe pap, which is thick and can be eaten with stew and meat, the water ratio to the maize is 1:1.
While for slap pap which can be eaten as breakfast with milk and sugar, the water is much more than the maize.
Vetkoek is a traditional South African food that can roughly be called fried bread or fat cake. It is similar to a burger bun. It is crispy and golden on the outside while fluffy on the inside.
The pastry bun is deep-fried, and the interior is stuffed with curried mince or chicken mayo mixtures. Additionally, smaller vetkoek is eaten like flapjacks, with a dollop of butter and jam.
Koeksisters are a sweet snack that is a twisted and plaited dough, fried until golden and crunchy. The twisted dough is deep-fried in hot oil and immediately dunked in cold syrup or honey.
Moreover, the dough sucks up the sweet stuff, making it crispy. This snack is slightly hard on the outside while soft and sweet on the inside.
Melktert/milk tart is a famous South African dessert. A list of traditional South African food would not be complete without this dessert on it.
It is a sweet pastry crust with a filling of a very light cheesecake. Melktert is made with milk, flour, sugar, and eggs.
The ingredients are mixed in a ratio that ensures that the filling sets while the milk taste is predominant. Additionally, the tart is topped with powdered cinnamon.
Over the years, South Africans have created a recipe that does not require the baking of the dessert.
Chakalaka is a traditional South African food believed to have originated in Johannesburg. It is a spicy dish. Carrots, tomatoes, onions, peppers, chilies, cabbage, beans, and curry powder make Chakalaka.
This dish is served cold. It could be served with pap or alongside bread, stews, or barbecued meat.
14. Bunny Chow
Bunny Chow originated from Durban. The Indian immigrants in Durban created this dish. Bunny chow is a hollowed-out white bread stuffy with tasty Indian spices such as spicy curry, meat, or vegetables.
The bread holds the curry. Then the bread is broken off into small pieces and dips inside the curry. However, Bunny chow could be served alongside rice, grated carrot, and salad.
Additionally, Bunny chow is now becoming popular in London.
15. Tomato Bredie
Tomato Bredie is a traditional South African food. It is a stew. The Malaysians introduced this dish. Lamb, cinnamon, ginger, and chili are used in making this stew.
However, its unique taste results from beans, Cape water lilies, and cardamom that are added to it.
Sosaties is kebab to the rest of the world. The Malaysians introduced sosaties to South Africa. The key to a delicious sosatie is in the preparation.
Onions are added to a marinade of chilies, garlic, tamarind juice, and curry leaves, then cuts of lamb are cubed and left in the marinade overnight. It is left to sit overnight to maximize the floor.
When cooking, sosaties could either be fried or grilled, but with all traditional South African meat dishes, braaing (grilling) increases the flavor.
Additionally, the lamb is skewered along with peppers, dried apricots, and onions.
Ugali is a traditional South African food for vegetarians. Most traditional South African food contains animals. Ugali doesn’t. Ugali is a white dough prepared with sorghum flour, maize flour, and millet flour. It is normally eaten as breakfast, along with salad and stew.
18. Gem Squash
Gem squash is a popular vegetable in South Africa. It has the appearance of round zucchini, the size of an apple, but it is a variety of summer squash.
Gem squash is hard to find anywhere else in the world apart from South Africa.
This vegetable is hard to eat. After cooking, it becomes soft and sweet. After cooking, gem squash is cut in halves, and the seeds are removed.
It is then served with a spoon and melted butter or stuffed with cheese, sweet corn, or Chakalaka.
19. Yellow Rice
Yellow rice is a traditional South Africa food that is a must at weddings and other celebrations. Cinnamon, turmeric, and raisins and used to cook the rice. Gravy-based dishes are typically served with this dish.
20. Samp and Beans
Samp and bean is a traditional South African food called Isitambu in Zulu and umngqusho in Xhosa. As the name implies, samp and beans are cooked with spices.
Black pepper and curry powder give samp and bean its spicy taste. Moreover, samp and beans are a perfect side dish for any rice-based cuisine.
Kota is a popular sandwich-like bread preparation in South Africa. However, like the name sounds, only a quarter of bread is used in its practice.
Condiments, sausage, and potato chips are layered on soft bread in a sandwich-like manner.
South Africans love barbecue. It is a way of life deeply rooted in modern South African culture. Braai means to burn meat in Zulu. Most traditional South African food is grilled.
Communities and friends gather at braais on the weekends to share food. The meat offered differs from beef to pork to lamb to chicken.
When next you visit South Africa, make sure to attend a braai. That is where you would experience authentic South African cuisines.
When you next visit South Africa, be sure to try one or more of these dishes. It will make you enjoy your stay in South Africa and add to your story about trying out new things.