To truly enjoy South African food, you have to actually be in South Africa. It’s all about shared history, your surroundings, and the people with whom you’ve gathered to break (braai) bread. Here is a list of the iconic South African foods that all visitors should taste when on our gorgeous shores.
Amagwinya / vetkoek
It’s a ball of dough, it’s fried and it’s filled. Vetkoek really lives up to its name, meaning ‘fat cake’. Favourite fillings include spiced mince, apricot jam and grated cheese or polony.
You can buy these strips of umami-rich dried and spiced meat – usually beef, kudu or ostrich – at almost any supermarket or corner café. Biltong is best enjoyed with a beer while watching sport.
This traditional Cape Malay dish comprises gently spiced minced lamb or beef topped with an egg-and-milk layer and browned in the oven. Some recipes call for the addition of apple, raisins or apricot jam, whose sweetness works well with the curry powder and turmeric that lend the dish its golden colour.
This traditional thick farmer’s sausage is a staple at braais and hangover breakfasts. (It’s great on a soft roll with fried onion and lashings of sauce, too.) Spiced predominantly with coriander and containing a mixture of beef and pork, the sausage comes in a big coil. It sizzles pleasantly when you turn it over with tongs on the braai.
Braaivleis / shisa nyama
This is the quintessential South African way of eating, where friends gather sociably around an open fire, and cooking meat is done over the coals.
These grilled sandwiches are ever-present at many home braais. You can put anything between two slices of bread, pop it on the grill, and call it a braaibroodjie. They usually contain some combo of cheese, onion and tomato.
Commonly made with lamb and waterblommetjies (an edible flower found in our dams and marshes) or beef and tomato, bredie is a slow-cooked comforting stew.
Originally conceived as a travelling lunch in KwaZulu-Natal, a bunny chow is a hollowed out loaf of white bread filled with curry. Durban is the place to try it.
This traditional Cape Malay dish, reportedly one of the oldest South African recipes, is a sweet-and-sour slow-cooked stew flavoured with spices and tamarind.
This legendary stacked foot-long sandwich is meant for sharing. The gatsby is filled to bursting with slap chips (chunky, soft fries usually doused in vinegar), masala steak, egg, Russian sausage and sometimes polony or a vienna accompanied by atchar or peri peri.
There is still a whole list of recommended South African foods to follow, so be on the look-out for Part 2.