A modern twist on traditional South African food

Dudu Khoza’s fried pap maize balls. Picture: Supplied

Dudu Khoza’s fried pap maize balls. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 25, 2023


Food culture is rapidly evolving in the ever-dynamic food service industry.

It is no secret that South African cuisine is hitting new heights – both on our shores and abroad.

In this article, we will look at how South Africa's traditional dishes have evolved and become known globally, how these dishes have been modernised, and some of the recipes that are out there.

Each corner of the country has its own locally available fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices which have been used over centuries to create distinct cuisines. Picture: Narda Yescas

I believe that the reason South African cuisine has evolved and become known globally is that it is healthy, full of big flavours, and contains many superfoods, so it makes perfect sense that its popularity is growing around the world.

As you would expect, each corner of the country has its own locally available fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices which have been used over centuries to create distinct cuisines. Food and ingredients have trends just like clothing.

Modernising is just making recipes in the spirit of the current modern trend and we are surely winning on that.

Looking at why there is a change in the traditional style of cooking, different kinds of cuisines are evolving and so is the style of cooking too.

One of the reasons that come to my mind is the change in our eating habits.

Just compare what our great-grandparents and grandparents ate and what we are eating now.

You will ultimately realise how dramatically our eating habits have changed.

Earlier, there were fewer choices in food but now with so many chefs taking over the food industry, we can find one new dish every day.

It is no secret that South African cuisine is hitting new heights. Picture: Pexels

New modern appliances and techniques also play a role as they change the taste of food.

Food prepared with new tools has different tastes.

For example, although most people still do, you would cook samp and beans for hours while you wait for it to be cooked but today there are things like the Wonderbag, a non-electric slow cooker that uses heat-retention technology to continue cooking food once your pot has been removed from the heat source.

If you are looking for inspiration on how to put a modern twist to some of your favourite South African traditional dishes, here are a few recipes.

Dudu Khoza's fried pap maize balls. Picture: Supplied

Dudu Khoza's fried pap maize balls


Some organic sweetcorn

1 onion, finely chopped

1 chilli, de-seed it, and chop

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

5 tsp of cooking oil

3 cups of White Star maize meal, depending on the serving

1 chicken stock

1 tsp salt

1 tsp chopped chives

3 tsp butter

100g grated cheddar cheese

Cornflour, for dusting


Char-grill the corn ears over a hot grill until cooked. Cut the kernels from the cob and set aside to rub or roll the maize balls in.

Grease an oven dish and line it with greaseproof paper.

In a large pot, fry onion, garlic, and chilli in oil for 2 minutes over high heat. Add white wine and boil for about 3 minutes.

Add maize meal and stir. While at it, add 2 cups of chicken stock and continue stirring. When it has mixed well, add another 2 cups of chicken stock while stirring.

Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking while stirring for about 5 minutes. Add the salt and the reserved corn kernels and stir through.

Remove from the heat. Add chopped chives, butter, and cheddar cheese. Stir vigorously to melt the butter and cheese without allowing the mixture to split.

Cook the pap normally and cut into small balls or roll it once cold.

Transfer the mixture and roll in the corn. Cover with a piece of buttered greaseproof paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a large frying or griddle pan until smoking hot.

Gently fry the dusted squares on both sides until golden and crispy. Transfer back to the oven dish and place in the preheated oven for 4-7 minutes until heated through.

Lufuno Sinthumule’s deep fried tripe. Picture: Supplied

Lufuno Sinthumule’s deep fried tripe


2 cups cooked tripe

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and black pepper

½ cup cake wheat flour (seasoned with salt and pepper)

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup breadcrumbs

Cooking oil for deep frying

Lemon wedges, to serve

1 handful of basil leaves (optional)


In a large bowl mix together tripe, lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Drain the tripe.

Roll in flour, then dip in eggs and lastly roll in bread crumbs. Repeat this process twice on each tripe nugget.

Heat cooking oil and deep-fry the tripe for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown in colour.

Place nuggets on a paper towel to absorb oil.

Serve warm with lemon wedges and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For added fun, flavour, and frying, deep-fry the basil leaves, drain on a paper towel, and sprinkle over the tripe.

Note: The leaves will pop and splatter oil so stand away from the stove when trying this.