South Africa is home to so many flavourful dishes.
Each of them developed unique stories behind what made them trend before they became set in stone as local favourites.
If you are planning a visit South Africa or planning on a local tour with friends, you will want to know not just the places to visit, but the foods to eat.
The good news is that Taste Atlas – one of the top travel guides to traditional foods around the world, which features authentic recipes, reviews, and research articles on popular ingredients and dishes – has done the work for you.
The popular site has recently revealed the hundred most popular African dishes, and nine South African dishes have made it to the list. Here are Mzansi’s most popular dishes right now.
Braai is a South African term for barbecue. There is no real braai without the fire, and it isn't considered a braai if the meat is cooked on a gas grill. The braai is a ritual of sorts; an essential foundation of social life across the country.
Once you discover the meaty magic of the braai, you will never look at the humble barbecue in the same way again. Almost everywhere you go in SA you will come across the aroma of meat being grilled.
And In many gardens and outdoor areas, you will see people hanging out – usually with a beer or glass of wine in hand – and braaing meat.
The selection of meat typically includes steaks, boerewors sausages, kebabs, sosaties, pork, chicken, or lamb chops, accompanied by pap and salads.
Blatjang is a South African staple of Cape Malay origins and the recipe is one of the oldest around. It is a condiment traditionally served with bobotie and other meat dishes and is a cross between fruit chutney and jam.
The thick chutney is made with fruits, sugar, vinegar, and various spices. It contains dried apricots, raisins, walnuts, ginger, allspice, garlic, and dried onions.
After the ingredients have been simmered, blatjang is poured into jars and left to cool down.
The humble bunny chow is a staple, not only in Durban but across South Africa. It represents the fabric of South Africa’s rich and colourful heritage.
A bunny chow is basically made from half a loaf of bread (with the inside scooped out and kept to dip in the gravy). The hollow loaf is then filled with delicious authentic Indian curry – made from lamb, mutton, or vegetables. Beef, chicken or mince can also be used.
Roosterkoek is a South African classic that follows the same base as a vetkoek recipe. It is simply balls of bread dough cooked on a grid over the coals, and are best eaten piping hot and straight off the grill.
Regardless of its roots, the potjie has become ingrained in our culture, with every variation under the sun possible. From traditional beef and vegetable potjies, to Indian-style lamb knuckle curry, everyone has their favourite take.
Cooked over a fire in a three-legged cast-iron pot, it’s vital to layer the components. Meat should be added first and properly packed.
When the meat is almost done, onions, garlic, and herbs are whisked inside, and a liquid-like stock, such as red wine. When done correctly, a “potjie” requires little to no supervision and almost cooks itself.
Biltong’s history is inexorably tied to the history of South Africa. When the early settlers arrived, they needed a way of storing their meat lest it went off.
Thus, the curing process was formed, a century-old method passed down the generations and designed to preserve the integrity of the meat.
The beef is dried with vinegar which cures the meat and adds layers of texture and flavour. It is seasoned with salt, pepper, and coriander, and the meat is much thicker than beef jerky.
This is a traditional South African sticky treat that’s deliciously sweet, sticky, crunchy, and drenched in syrup, laced with cinnamon, lemon, and ginger. Absolutely perfect for a snack or tea time and even breakfast.
Bobotie is a dish consisting of spiced minced meat baked with an egg-based topping. With influences introduced by the spices of Cape Malay cooking, there are many ways of making bobotie and a vast variety of recipes can be found on the net that at times it is difficult to tell which is the most authentic bobotie.
As people's preferences for specialised diets have grown, there are also vegetarian and vegan alternatives for this dish.
Boerewors is a fresh sausage that is perfect for the grill. The name means “farmer’s sausage” and comes from a combination of the Afrikaans words boer (‘farmer’) and wors (‘sausage’).
Another general rule, and South African law, is that boerewors shouldn’t contain more than 30% fat. This can be a mixture of meat and fat and different ratios but the main rule is no more than 30% fat.