6 South African Foods that Look Delicious

I actually did this post for my personal blog, but I thought you study abroad travelers might be interested in picking up the real deal in South Africa if you get a chance! Let me know how they hold up to expectations!

“Swellendam Lake, South Africa” by Mad-Margaret

“South Africa never leaves one indifferent. Its history, its population, its landscapes and cultures – all speak to the visitor, to the student, to the friend of Africa.”

~ Tariq Ramadan

I still remember the first time I actively realized South Africa was a country in it’s own right.  Growing up in a small rural Mid-western town, my education definitely was more European focused than African.  What little I knew of South Africa was limited to the connection between a small city named Cape Town and the explorers of the 17- and 1800s.  

Then, my freshman year of college, I met the sweetest young man studying abroad from South Africa and attending my honor’s courses.  He was such a kind student, hard working, and seriously brilliant.  College was the first time I really had a chance to talk with foreigners and people from the far-off countries I had previously only dreamed about.  There was something exotic and exciting each time I could say: Voila! I have now spoken with a person from ____________ country!

He used to tell me about his country, describing the beautiful places he was homesick for and the culture he would have loved to share. His stories permanently marked South Africa on my list of “Someday to visit places.” 

After doing some research on the country, I’ve discovered that, in addition to the locations he mentioned, I’m kinda looking forwards to the food as well 🙂  If you are going to visit a new country, it’s pretty much required that you try out their best dishes and the following 6 are a must-try for me!  

If you get a chance to travel or study in South Africa, let me know how the local versions taste! 🙂

1. Boerewors

This past 4th of July, my family BBQ’d pork steaks and hot dogs on the grill.  In South Africa, they call this “Braaing” and they prefer to throw Boerewors on the grills.  Boerewors are the South African version of Polish Sausage — it is  a varying mixture of meat (primarily beef with lamb and/or pork) and spices.  According to my friend, the dish is traditionally crafted from scratch; no running to the store and picking up a package. It takes work and time, but it’s well worth the effort!  

If you’re interested in making your own, I found a recipe that looks promising here on Food.com.

2. Bobotie

Bobotie is a baked egg-custard dish with minced meat, fruits, and spices inside, and I’ve got to say I’m desperate to try it out. The pictures all just look so good!  Made of Beef or Lamb combined with various dried fruits (Apricot, Dates, Raisins, etc.), Indianesque spices, and topped with an egg-based sauce, the dish is very popular in South Africa. And no Wonder!  I love anything vaguely cassarole-ish, and they say this is a great variety.

Good-Looking Recipe available from Nigella

3. Koeksisters

I’m picturing something “Spike Cake” or “Lemon Cake” tasting (which I like anyway), but they say these are actually better.  It probably depends upon the recipe (some are more cinnamon-based, some are more ginger-based, others thrown in lemon with a dash of vanilla), but these little treats are supposed to be the bomb-diggity.  Most of the recipes I’ve found show a cake-based foundation, fried to perfection and then topped with some sort of sweet glaze or sauce.  They remind me of the Twists our bakery sells here in China 🙂  

Best-looking Recipe I found was on Food.com, but there are some others here and here

4. Potjiekos

Translating as “Pot Food”, Potjiekos sounds like something my grandmother and mom would love to make. They are always making the famous “Blessing Vegetable Soup” out of whatever vegetables are in the cabinet on a cool fall day.  Potjiekos sounds remarkably similar.  In the olden days, South Africans cooked over the fire in a Potjie (Cast Iron Pot), making delicious stew recipes that would descend through the ages.  Unlike my grandmother’s soups though, this fire was always outside! The food is added in via layers ~ Meat first then layers of different vegetables in order of the time it takes to cook them.  Pumpkin, Sweet Potatoes, Onion, Garlic, Carrots, Tomatoes, Broccoli, any veggies you want to throw in.  The result is a homey kind of stew that sounds soooo good!

Find out more about the process and recipes here at Potjiekos World

5. Chakalaka

I’m going to confess that half the attraction for this dish is the name ~ “Chakalaka” just sounds pretty awesome! 🙂  The dish itself changes a bit depending on the recipe, some are more of a salsa consistency while others look somewhat like a chili.  Chakalaka is not actually a dish in and of itself, rather it is a sauce or relish added to meats, curry, bread, etc. as a garnish to spice up the flavor.  I know some people who add it to chicken and say it’s the best for adding a touch of jazz to the taste!  Most recipes, though not all, include beans, onion, garlic, ginger, curry/chili powder, tomatoes, corn, peppers carrots, and other vegetables.  Mmm-mmm Good!

I found a pretty yummy-sounding recipe here on Food Network UK that I think I might try soon.

6. Melktert

Of course I haven’t forgotten dessert, and these Melkterts look like a must-try.  In fact, we’re going to test out the recipe below this month at my family’s fish fry.  It’s an egg-custard like pastry, but with a uniquely South African touch to an originally Portuguese concept.  The crust is made and the custard either baked within or added just before serving.  Apparently, it’s more milk than egg and if you add cinnamon to the milk first it is even better.  The custard has a buttery, sweet taste and you can add cinnamon and sugar on top.  I can’t wait to try it!

I’m combining two recipes from here and here.