South African cuisine: 11 dishes you simply must try

South African cuisine is so unique because it is influenced by a variety of cultures. Consistently, all our guests have commented on the superior quality of the food they’ve had while travelling through South Africa. Food and culture go hand-in-hand so if you want to be completely immersed in a country’s culture, you must try the food! Here are our top 10 traditional dishes that you simply have to try while visiting South Africa.

Boerewors

This is a traditional sausage made from either beef or venison and a mixture of spices. The best way to enjoy boerewors is to ”braai” it on an open fire in the bush! Many will argue that the meal is incomplete without a cold beer, but even a G&T will do.

Biltong

Biltong (like jerky) is dried, cured meat fillets – mostly beef or venison. Back in the day, local indigenous people like the Khoikhoi would make biltong to preserve meat in the intense African heat. Today, it’s regarding as a South African staple and a sports game just isn’t the same without a bowl of biltong to nibble on. Inevitably, the bowl requires a refill before long!

Pap & Shebo

Pap is a traditional maize porridge made with water, salt, butter and love also known as Phutu by locals. Depending on the amount of water used, one can make ”krummelpap” (only a dash), ”stywe pap” (a little bit more) or ”slappap” ( a lot more). Pap is typically served with shebo, a tasty tomato relish, at a braai/barbecue. It tastes even better the next morning when you have it with milk and sugar for breakfast!

Pap, sheba and boerewors

Potjiekos

Potjiekos (food cooked in a small pot) is a stew-like meal cooked in a 3-legged cast-iron pot. It’s usually placed over an open fire. Traditionally, a potjie consists of meat, vegetables like potatoes, green beans and carrots and a host of herbs and spices. There are hundreds of recipes but my dad’s lamb potjie is the best…! This dish is mainly served with rice or samp and beans.

Traditional potjie

Vetkoek

A vetkoek or ”amagwinya” is a deep-fried ball of dough that tastes like home. They are often served with meaty fillings like curried mince but they taste just as delicious filled with butter and jam. Yummy…

Bobotie

This is one of my favourite quick and easy suppers. Bobotie is a minced meat dish with a delicious egg-milk mixture poured over that’s baked in the oven. It’s such a crowd-pleaser and often served with yellow rice and raisins. I’m happy to see it appearing on restaurant menus more often! TRY THIS: Vetkoek with a bobotie filling.

Bobotie from True Living

Bobotie from True Living

Bunny chow

The roots of the bunny chow (or just bunny) can be traced back to the Indian South Africans in Durban. This tasty meal consists of a hollowed out piece of white bread that’s filled with a meaty curry (either lamb or beef). The bread soaks up the delicious sauce, yum! It’s become the iconic dish of Durban.

Samp & beans

This is a deliciously simple and cost-effective meal loved by most South Africans. I have such fond memories of having samp and beans with my granny. The beans are soaked overnight and then cooked slowly with the samp (prepared from dehusked maize kernels). Here is a great recipe. Eat as is or serve with any other meaty dish.

Traditional samp and beans – Taste

Pickled fish

Pickled fish is a favourite, especially among Cape Malays in the Western Cape over Easter time. The sweet and sour sauce cooked with ginger, garlic, vinegar and other spices is poured over fried white fish is used like hake. As with any ”pickling”, the flavours develop better when left for a couple of days. Try this recipe!

Cape Malay pickled fish – Taste

Milktart

Milktart or ”melktert” is a delicious dessert consisting of a sweet pastry with a milky, custard filling. It’s thought to have been introduced by the early Dutch settlers. Generally, it’s decorated with a generous amount of cinnamon. It’s the ideal dessert to have after a ”braai” with a cup of rooibos tea. You’ll find it in almost every South African supermarket and home industry store as well as on most restaurant menus.

Milktart – image: Pinterest

Koeksisters

These super sweet, sticky treats are a staple dessert in almost every South African home. A koeksister is a braided donut-like pastry that’s deep fried (which makes it deliciously crunchy) and then drenched in syrup. It’s often paired with milktart on a dessert table and even served for breakfast. They freeze very well so it’s a great sweet backup when unexpected guests arrive!

Koeksisters – African Bites