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South Africa's Top 13 Most Delicious Dishes

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November 15, 2017 / African / By
ETG - Food For Thought

If you are a fan of South African food, you know that the best way to enjoy it is to go to South Africa and taste as many incredible dishes as possible. We know that not everybody can do that and that is why, besides talking about South Africa’s most delicious dishes, we share some recipes with you as well. But, before we start talking about the dishes and the South African recipes you can try at home, we have to talk to you about some important details about South African cuisine so you can better understand all the amazing flavors and traditions that stand behind the delicious dishes.

The South African cuisine has so many different influences, some more visible than others. From German, Italian, British, Greek, French influences to Indo-Asian influences, the South African cuisine is a mix of the best flavors in the world. Nowadays, African families eat a combination of indigenous foods like pap (a maize meal) with various meat stews or barbecued meat, meat is the center of the traditional meal for South Africans, rice, beans and a variety of vegetables.

There are different styles of cooking in South Africa, Cape Dutch, the French and Indian style being the most popular ones. Cape Dutch is a particular style of cooking that is basically a mix of the European style of cooking combined with the cuisines and cooking styles of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Bengal region. Cape Dutch cooking is known for the use of spices, nutmeg in particular, but allspice is quite popular too and also the use of chili peppers in various fish dishes and curries.

The curried dishes are very popular in South Africa, especially served with lemon juice, but sweet chutneys are also well-loved by South Africans. If you visit South Africa, you must try bobotie, a dish that originated in Cape Malay and that is considered by numerous people the national dish of South Africa. This dish is a baked meat-based dish that contains spicy minced meat and an egg topping. Another popular street-style snack or meal in South Africa is bunny chow, a big loaf of bread filled with delicious curry.

Potjiekos

Potjiekos is a traditional meat and vegetable dish of South Africa that looks like a stew even though it is not a stew. Potjiekos means pot food and it is a dish that is part of the South African cuisine for centuries. It is believed that the dish was created when the first Dutch arrived in Cape bringing heavy cast iron pots and their cooking style to South Africa.

The cast iron pots retain heat very well and it allows the meat and vegetables to simmer for hours creating a flavorful and delicious dish. Back in the day, the ingredients list included a piece of meat, usually fat meat, some vegetables, and a few potatoes.

Traditionally, potjiekos is made on an open fire and nowadays cooking potjiekos is more than cooking food, it is a social event that includes close friends and family members. While the food is slowly cooking on the fire, people enjoy drinks, they chat and share stories.  

There are a variety of potjiekos recipes with different types of meat and different vegetables. Beef is one of the most delicious meats in potjiekos because the meat becomes very tender and develops a strong flavor during the cooking process. However, chicken, fish, and mutton are also common in potjiekos.

Recipe to try at home: Oxtail potjie via Food24

Shisa Nyama

Food is a huge part of the social life in South Africa. People gathering around an open fire to make dishes and to roast meats is very common so no wonder some of the dishes and foods included here are cooked on an open fire for hours. We talked about potjiekos before but potjiekos is not the only food that gathers people around the fire to have fun, to chat, and drink. Shisa nyama is another South African tradition that means more than eating some food. Shisa nyama means burn meat and it is a type of grilled meat seasoned with amazing spices and served with many delicious side dishes. The open fire plays a huge role in making shisa nyama, you have to braai the meat not to grill it inside because the meat becomes more flavorful and delicious when prepared in the traditional South African style.

Recipe to try at home: Shisa Nyama Braai from Rhodes Quality

Bunny Chow

Invented by the Indian immigrants approximately 200 years ago, bunny chow is probably the most popular street food in South Africa. Bunny chow is basically a loaf of bread filled with various types of curry. In South Africa, bunny chow is served in restaurants, however, for the best experience, we recommend buying bunny chow from the street food vendors. Lamb and chicken curries are regularly used for bunny chow but you can find so many bunny chow options on the streets of South Africa. Vegetable curry options are also available.

Recipe to try at home: Bunny Chow from African Bites

Bredie

Bredie is a slow-cooked stew usually made with lamb and served with rice as a side dish. Lamb bredie commonly has waterblommetjies, an edible flower that is used for cooking in South Africa, in it. Bredie made with waterblommetjies is waterblommetjies bredie but there are other varieties too. Cabbage bredie is, for example, another popular type of bredie in South Africa. The slow cooking process makes the dish incredibly flavorful and delightful. This type of comfort food is perfect for cold winter days but we wouldn’t say no to it during summer days because the flavors are too good to not enjoy it.  

Recipe to try at home: Lamb Neck Tomato Bredie from Crush Mag

 

Bobotie

Bobotie is one of the most popular South African dishes. This spiced lamb or beef minced meat dish with an egg and milk layer is a traditional dish from Cape Malay but it is known and loved all over South Africa. Some bobotie recipes have lots of fruity flavors from the apricot or apple jams that are added on top of the classic ingredients. The taste of the fruity bobotie is absolutely delightful – the sweetness of the fruits go very well with the spices, usually curry and turmeric, used for the meat.

Recipe to try at home: The Ultimate Lekkerbek Bobotie from The Pretty Blog

Braaibroodjies

Braaibroodjies are another popular type of food around the open fire. Braaibroodjies are basically grilled sandwiches made with various ingredients, however, the cheese, onion, and tomatoes combo is the most popular one. Braaibroodjies sounds like Panini to most people but, as for many South African dishes, braaibroodjies are more than food but more of a cultural and social experience. Braaibroodjies are traditionally served during or at the end of the braai and it has some unique flavors because they are cooked on open coals. From simple cheddar, onion and tomatoes braaibroodjies to braaibroodjies with fruit chutney layers, there are numerous variations you can try while visiting South Africa. You can enjoy them for lunch but they also make delicious sweet and savory snacks throughout the day.  If you visit Pretoria, you can find a fancy type of braaibroodjies that you should try – the braaibroodjies with brie cheese and caramelized onions.

Recipe to try at home: Recipe: South African Cheese, Grilled Onion & Tomato Panini (Braaibroodjie) from The Kitchn

Frikkadel

Almost every country in the world has a traditional meatballs recipe and South Africa has it too. The meatballs dish of South Africa is called frikkadel. The dish includes baked or deep-fried meatballs and chopped tomatoes and herbs added on top of the meatballs to simmer until perfection. The meatballs are made with minced meat, eggs, onion, bread, spices, and vinegar. The dish can be enjoyed as it is with a side salad and some bread or served with pasta for more filling meal.

Recipe to try at home: The Perfect FRIKKADEL (Meatballs) from SA PROMO Magazine

The Gatsby

Next to bunny chow, the Gatsby is a very popular street food in South Africa. Most South African dishes are meant for sharing with friends and family and that is also the case of the Gatsby. The sandwich was invented in the 70s around the same time The Great Gatsby played in the country. This amazing sandwich is a long sandwich made with French fries, egg, masala steak, and Russian sausage. Sometimes the Gatsby contains achar (South Asian pickles), bologna or Piri Piri hot sauce. The Gatsby is the perfect street food in South Africa while exploring the cities of the country because you can enjoy it with your friends and then resume your adventures.

Recipe to try at home: The Gatsby from Saveur.com

Pap En Sous

Pap is a staple dish in numerous South African households. Made from ground maize cooked in water, pap can be as fluid as a porridge or drier and served dipped in a tomato and onion sauce, a meaty stew or a fruity salsa (sous) hence the name of the dish pap en sous. You can say that pap is the South African version of polenta. This home dish can be cooked on braai or grill but also in the kitchen. The braai is obviously recommended.

The classic sous for pap en sous is the tomato and onion sauce we already mentioned or a traditional South African stew, however, there are some variations of the pap en sous that we also love very much – pap en sous with boerewors (South African sausages) or other types of South African sausages or pap en sous served with fried eggs.

Recipe to try at home: Boerewors (Wors), Pap & Sous – Braai’d (Grilled) South African Sausage from Biltong Blog

Peppermint Crisp Tart

Peppermint crisp tart is that type of dessert that tastes better than it looks. This is a very easy to make dessert that is a very popular after-dinner dessert in South Africa. Made with a layer of biscuits, a layer of whipped cream and peppermint crisp chocolate bars, this dessert is rich, decadent and very easy to make. No baking or cooking required, only 10 minutes prep time and one of the most popular South African desserts can be on your table.

Recipe to try at home: Peppermint Crisp Tart from Just Easy Recipes

Koeksisters

Koeksisters are the traditional South African donuts that can be found everywhere in the country, however, depending on the region you’re in, the sweet donuts may be in the form of balls of dough rolled in coconut or in the form of deep-fried braided dough soaked in syrup. We cannot decide which type of koeksister is better. Both types are delicious and the perfect sweet snack.

Recipe to try at home: Koeksisters Recipe – A Traditional South African Donut from Lovely Greens

Malva Pudding

Malva pudding is a simple, baked pudding usually made by grandmothers for their grandkids. Malva pudding originated in Cape Malay but you will find various types of malva pudding all over the country. We cannot decide between the classic malva pudding with toffee sauce or the delicious apricot jam malva pudding. What we know for sure is that we absolutely love the cream sauce served on top of the pudding and we love to enjoy this amazing malva pudding with ice cream. If you prefer, you can serve it with custard instead.

Recipe to try at home: South African malva pudding with easy frozen custard from Simply Delicious Food

Melktart

Melktart or milk tart is the perfect treat for tea-time. Melktart is probably the most famous South African dessert and it goes back to the time the Dutch settlers arrived in the Cape. The tart is a simple tart that consists of a sweet crust filled with a classic milk and egg custard. Melktart is similar with the Chinese egg tart and the classic custard tart that is popular in Europe, however, Melktart has a higher ratio of milk which makes it lighter and more milk-flavored than the Chinese or the European tarts.

Traditionally, melktart is made in the oven, however, the custard can also be made on the stove and added on the pie crust. Melktart can be served hot during winter months and cold during summer months and it is delicious in both instances.

Recipe to try at home: Milk Tart from Mandy Mortimer


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