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5 Foods You Didn't Know Came From South Africa

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July 20, 2014 / African / By
Nicola

By Jugni (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

With the internet and the fact that it's become so easy for us to travel around the globe, it's no surprise that well-loved foods and brands are continent hopping, as well. You only have to go to a supermarket or street food market to see the variety of international foods which have made their way here, and it seems like there's a McDonald's in just about any country you visit! You might be surprised to find out how many of those foods and brands which you see every day actually started out life in South Africa. Here's my run-down of the top five.

1. Nando's

You'll be forgiven for thinking that this chicken haven originates from Portugal - it's true that that is the style of food which Nando's is famous for. However, Nando's actually comes from South Africa; England opened its first restaurant in 1992, and they have been expanding ever since.

Now that you know this, it might start to make sense why Nando's restaurants display so much African artwork - in fact, their collection of South African art is six times larger than that of the Tate Britain, and it's the largest collection of South African art outside of South Africa itself! Over 4,000 works of art line the walls of Nando's restaurants, with the focus being on young, undiscovered artists. As well as giving us something pretty to look at while we eat, Nando's are giving people from all social and economic backgrounds in South Africa the chance to pursue their talent and turn it into a full-time career.

2. Rooibos

You might know Rooibos slightly better by the name Red Bush - that's right, I'm talking about tea! Red bush tea went through a surge in popularity a number of years ago, but I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Looking back on it, that's because I'd always grown up with Red Bush tea (or Rooibos, as I knew it) being one of the most popular drinks in my home country of South Africa.

Red Bush tea, which grows in the southern city of Cape Town, has many health benefits. This is probably what makes it so popular! It contains no caffeine, which makes it safe for everyone to drink, it contains antioxidants and minerals, and it improves both skin and sleep, amongst a host of other things. When you consider that it tastes so good, too, it makes sense that this South African speciality made the journey north. My only question is: what took it so long?

3. Mrs. Balls Chutney

Ask any South African and they'll be able to wax lyrical about how amazing the chutney made by the Mrs Balls brand is. It has become a staple item in many a South African kitchen, as it's a key ingredient in many traditional dishes.

Chutneys are also growing in popularity in England, especially with the increase in the amount of Indian food we eat, for which chutney is a brilliant accompaniment. Still produced in Johannesburg, Mrs Balls Chutney is now exported all around the world, including to Australia and New Zealand, as well as England. Now, it is easy to find on supermarket shelves, so it's well on its way to becoming a firm favourite everywhere - not just in South Africa!

4. Biltong

Although it is mostly still popular with South African ex-pats, biltong is slowly filtering through the rest of the population as a tasty treat. It's similar to beef jerky, which you're probably more familiar with, in that it's a dried, cured meat. It is served sliced into tiny, bitesize pieces, which are very moreish!

Biltong is relatively easy to make at home, but if you're not willing to go to the trouble, you're most likely to find it in a specialist South African shop. This is one of those foods which is becoming more popular through word of mouth, by trying it at a friend's house or as a sample, rather than because it's popping up in supermarkets everywhere. Let's hope the trend catches on, though, because popping some in the basket along with the rest of the weekly shop would be so much easier!

5. Spur

Spur is the second restaurant on this list which began its days in South Africa but which now has branches popping up all over the place. Famous for its steaks, it's not uncommon for people to think it's a North American brand, due to the Native American in the logo. However, nobody does a steak quite like a South African, as the beef has been roaming the African plains its whole life, rather than shivering in the dreary, drizzly English weather!

So far, Spur has six branches all over the UK, including a restaurant in the O2 in London, but this number is increasing all the time. I would definitely recommend visiting one if you fancy a decent grill, but if you have the opportunity, I'd recommend visiting an original Spur in South Africa even more!


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Country: South Africa

Province/State: Gauteng

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Price Guide:$$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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