|Destination: South Africa|
|What To See
Western & Eastern Cape
+ Cape Town
In The Know
Did You Know?
Food & Drink
South Africa's indigenous and immigrant population, and its diversity of climates, have created the country's varied culinary traditions. Imported recipes, adapted over the centuries with the inclusion of local ingredients and innovative cooking methods have given it its originality.
African CuisineTraditional staples are meat (nyama), usually roasted or boiled, a white porridge (pap) made from maize, and wild spinach (Zulu imifino, Sotho morogo). Nowadays the pap is often eaten with a spicy stew of meat, onions, tomatoes and peppers. Mopani worms, dried caterpillars of the emperor moth, are an acquired taste.
Unusual meats can be found at some restaurants: game of various kinds, such as springbok, impala, kudu and warthog, as well as ostrich, now quite common, and guinea-fowl. A great local favourite is biltong, dried and seasoned meat - usually beef or game.
Immigrant CuisineMost of the international types of food - Indian, Chinese, French, Italian, British - can be found in the cities. The Portuguese in Southern Africa have developed their own distinctive style of chicken and seafood dishes spiced with peri-peri, a concoction of chillies and peppers.
The Western Cape, with its Mediterranean climate, has been making wine for more than 300 years, and now exports it all over the world. Because of the relatively hot summers, the reds are strong and full-bodied, the most popular types being cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and the local pinotage. The white wines - riesling, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay - have a crisp, slightly fruity flavour. Good fortified wines and brandy are also made locally.
Indonesian (Malay) & Afrikaner CuisineSo-called 'Cape Malay' slaves, mainly from Indonesia, had a very strong influence on Dutch and then Afrikaner cooking, resulting in many of the foods now thought of as typically South African. Among these are delicious bredies, stews of vegetables and/or meat - best known are those made with tomatoes or waterblommetjies, a kind of water-lily. Other specialities are bobotie, made with curried mince and egg, sosaties (spicy kebabs), konfyt (a range of sweet fruit preserves), and blatjang (tasty fruit chutney). For sweets try koeksisters, twisted deep-fried doughnuts, dipped in syrup.
Barbecues and MeatsThe barbecue (braai) is a South African institution. Expect to eat quantities of grilled steak, chops, kebabs, chicken and, above all, boerewors, a sausage of coarse-ground spiced meat. Typical accompaniments are a green salad and beer.
SeafoodIn most coastal cities and towns you can find excellent fresh seafood. The West Coast specialises in lobsters and mussels. Try Cape salmon, firm-fleshed kabeljou (kob), perlemoen (abalone - if you're lucky enough to find it), octopus and calamari in the Western Cape. Knysna is renowned for its delicious fresh oysters, while the East Coast, especially Durban, is famous for its fine prawns and shrimps.
FruitThe country's various climatic zones produce fresh fruit of all kinds: in the subtropical northeast, pawpaws, mangos and bananas; on the highveld, oranges, grapefruit and naartjies (tangerines); in the southwest, grapes and deciduous fruits such as apples, pears and apricots. For something unusual, try the peeled fruit of the prickly pear in the Eastern Cape.
DrinkThe best-known traditional African drinks are tshwala, a thick beer made from fermented sorghum and water, and amasi, a yoghurt-like drink of thick curdled milk.