Feasting on South Africa

Sweet and syrupy, South African koeksisters. Image by Darling Lama Productions.

Sweet and syrupy, South African koeksisters. Image by Darling Lama Productions.

SA has a unique food culture and while you may have heard of braavleis, boerewors and biltong, the list below will give you an inkling of the wide range of delicious food and drinks options available.

Pap is a staple in many South African homes and is made from ground maize (also known as “mealie meal”). It’s cooked with water and sometimes a pinch of salt is added. It’s served hot with meat and/or vegetables and is usually hard in consistency.

There are different variants of pap. It can also be served as a hot porridge with a runny consistency, to which you add sugar, butter and milk. Another popular variant is uphuthu in which the pap has a crumbly appearance and is drier than usual. This is often eaten with milk or sour milk.

Umqombothi is a traditional home-made beer which takes about four days to make. Ingredients include: mealie meal, maize malt, wheat malt, cold water and hot water. The ingredients are mixed and cooked into a porridge and combined with wheat malt, which makes it runny. It’s then strained and left to ferment.

Traditional ginger beer, also known as gemmerbier, is a refreshing home-made South African ginger drink. It was made before carbonated drinks became popular. Although it’s called a beer, it’s actually a drink that can be consumed by children. Yeast is added sparingly for the fermenting process.

Koeksisters are syrup-coated plaited dough cakes. Similar to doughnuts, the dough is divided into strips and plaited or twisted before being fried. The oil is then drained off by placing the koeksisters on paper towels. They are then dipped in a sugary syrup for a few minutes.

Ama kip-kip, also known as ama skoppers, this is a sweet and multi-coloured popcorn popular in townships. It can be bought from street vendors and is also sold at local shops. The name “kip kip” is an onomatopoeic expression for calling chickens and is derived from the Dutch word kip, which means “fowl”.

Mageu is a common maize drink in most African countries and the taste differs from culture to culture. It’s often slightly sour and sweet in taste and is made from fermented maize pap. Although it can be brewed at home, it’s commercially produced in SA in various flavours, such as strawberry, banana, ginger and cream.

Boeboetie, also spelt “bobotie“, is a slightly sweet spiced minced dish with an egg-based toping. It’s most popular in the Cape Malay society and is usually served with yellow rice. It was introduced to SA by colonies of the Dutch East India Company.

Boerewors is another staple in South African cuisine and is made of pork or beef with spices. “Boere” is the Afrikaans word for farmers and “wors” means sausage.

Smells like summer: boerewors on a braai. Image by Getty.

Smells like summer: boerewors on a braai. Image by Getty.

Braai is the South African version of an American barbecue.

Biltong is dried, cured meat and can be made from different kinds and cuts of meat. It can also be seasoned with different herbs and spices.

Chakalaka is a spicy vegetable relish made from fried carrots. There are different variations, including one in which you add canned baked beans. It’s perfect for a braai with pap.

Atchar is a spicy Indian condiment which is popular in SA and is made from mangoes and chillies. The word achar means “pickle” in Hindi.

Bunny chow, also known as kota (“quarter”) or spatlho, is a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry. In most townships, the filling consists of fried chips and a number of toppings, such as atchar and polony (bologna sausage) and resembles a Gatsby.

Fat cakes, also known as amagwinya or vetkoek (the literal meaning of fat cakes in Afrikaans) is a delicious fried dough bread. It’s popular in the townships and the Afrikaner community. Amagwinya doesn’t have a filling, as opposed to vetkoek, which is sometimes filled with mince meat or dipped in sugar.

Milk tart, also known as melktert in Afrikaans, is a South African classic. This dessert has a sweet pastry crust with a creamy custard milk filling and is drizzled with cinnamon.

Chutney is a sauce made of fresh fruits and spices. A popular peach version is commercially available and made from a secret family recipe.

Malva pudding is a sweet, baked dessert of Cape Dutch origin and named after a woman called Malva. It’s spongy and has a caramalised texture. You’ll usually find it served hot with a cream sauce, ice cream or custard.

Potjiekos means “small-pot food” in Afrikaans and is usually prepared outside using an iron pot with three legs (the cooking pot is also referred to as a drievoet). The dish is of Dutch origin and the meal usually includes vegetables and meat.

A traditional African 'potjie'. Image by Darling Lama Productions.

A traditional African ‘potjie’. Image by Darling Lama Productions.

Rusks are a hard, dry and chunky biscuit or twice-baked bread. Simply dunk them in tea to enjoy them. Originally, bread was preserved in this way for travelling over long distances because there were no refrigerators. A popular commercial version of rusks is sold in South Africa.

Umngqusho, also known as “stamp” or “isitambu” in Zulu, is coarse-crushed corn kennel. It’s slowly cooked and sugar beans are sometimes added. The dish is popular in the Nguni cultures. This dish is also prepacked and sold commercially

Chicken feet are a popular dish in townships and in the Indian community. They are cooked in water with spices and onion. They are very gelatinous and leave your hands feelings sticky after eating them.

Mogodu, also known as mala mogodu, is tripe or intestines, usually from a cow or lamb. It’s cooked in water and salt is usually used as seasoning. It is popular in all black cultures and is definitely an acquired taste.

Bokkoms, also known as “fish biltong”, it is a whole, salted and dried mullet that is popular in the Western Cape. The salted fish is dried in the sun and wind. The skin is peeled off before eating.

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