If you’re headed South Africa soon to experience its spectacular natural and cultural wonders (and I hope you are), make sure to include South African food tasting in your list of trip priorities. From curry-based dishes to a popular food many can’t take beyond airport customs, here’s a shortlist of diverse, traditional South African eats and treats that alone are well worth a visit.
Undoubtedly South Africa’s most popular snack, biltong is a tasty, cured meat eaten in thick strips similar to beef jerky. Before you think about smuggling a few back to your home country, there’s some unfortunate news: Biltong is banned in countries including the U.S., U.K., and EU countries, as it’s classified as an “exotic foodstuff.”
More of a homemade dish than a menu item, bobotie is a minced meat and curry dish baked with an egg topping and often served with dried raisins and apricots. It is believed that bobotie’s origins began as early as the seventeenth century, when South Africa’s Cape Malay community adopted the recipe from Dutch East India colonists.
The staple starch in many South African homes, pap (or mieliepap) is a traditional, thick porridge made of ground maize. It is a dish that is never eaten on its own; you pick up a portion with your fingers and combine them with any variety of savory sauces, vegetables, and/or meats.
Boerewors, or “wors” for short, is the traditional pork or beef sausage of choice for braiis (South African barbecues) around the country. The coiling, thick-cut sausage is usually eaten on its own or as a “boerewors roll,” tucked in a bun similar to hot dogs.
Fish such as salmon and tuna are global mainstays on dinner menus, but one might be unfamiliar with kingklip (meaning “king of the rocks”) if one isn’t from South Africa. Kingklip’s exclusive status as this country’s most popular fish is due to the bottom-dwelling species only existing off of South African and Namibian shores.
Often offered in South African menus catering to tourists, ostrich is one of the healthiest red meats available due to its low-fat, high-protein content. While you’ll see many fileted, grilled, and pan-fried varieties, ostrich burgers are arguably the trendiest form in South Africa’s dining scene today.
Chakalaka is a popular, spicy-sweet vegetable relish made of baked beans, tomatoes, carrots, onion, and curry powder. It’s a nearly mandatory item served at braiis (South African barbecues) and often accompanied by pap or bread to balance its robust flavors.
Sosaties are South Africa’s version of the shish kebab, with curry powder-marinated lamb or mutton chopped and cooked on skewers. Like bobotie, sosaties are also of Cape Malay origin, and the meat is often “skewed” alongside onions, peppers, apricots, and/or prunes.