South African cuisine – a delight for gourmets and travelers

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South African cuisine

South African cuisine as an approach to the country's cultures

I was a tour guide in South Africa for years and got to know the country's cuisine well. From simple country fare to gourmet menus in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. South African cuisine is diverse and unique. It combines influences from different cultures, which makes it particularly exciting. For us travellers, the cuisine is therefore a gateway to culture and History of South Africa. While eating we discover the traditions of the country and get to know it from a new side.


Dutch cooking techniques
Cooking techniques of the Dutch Photo: Photo by Ivan Shemereko on Unsplash


Historical background of South African cuisine

South African cuisine is a result of many cultural influences. The Dutch settlers brought theirs Cooking techniques and ingredients with. This still characterizes many dishes today. The British who came later brought their own eating habits with them. For example, tea time and pies have become established in South Africa.

The Malay population came to South Africa through the colonial period and brought their spices and cooking methods with them, which has greatly influenced South African cuisine. Indian immigrants have also left their mark. With them came curries and spice mixtures that are now an integral part of South African recipes.

This cultural diversity has made South Africa's cuisine unique. Every culture has made its contribution and we benefit from it. It tells the story of the people who lived and cooked here. We can experience and understand the history of South Africa through food.



Regional specialties South Africa

South African cuisine offers a rich variety of regional specialties. Each region has its own culinary traditions and influences.


Grapes Photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash


Cape Town and the Winelands

Cape Town is known for its fish and seafood cuisine. The city is by the sea, so fresh ingredients are always available. Fishermen bring their catch directly to the markets every day. These fresh ingredients are used in many dishes. In the Winelands, the wine-growing areas around Cape Town, everything revolves around wine and the dishes that go with it. The Wineries in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl are known for their good wines. Not only can we taste wine there, but we can also enjoy the dishes that go perfectly with the wines. Wineland cuisine is often prepared by the winemakers themselves or specialist chefs. They know the best combinations of wine and food.

The Cape Winelands are not just for wine lovers. During my travels, I always looked forward to getting to know new dishes from Cape Malay cuisine. These go excellently with the wines of the region.


South African cuisine in Durban
Durban Curry Photo by Jade Aucamp on Unsplash



Durban is strongly influenced by Indian influences, as Indian immigrants brought their spices and cooking techniques with them. That's why these influences are clearly noticeable in the cuisine in Durban. The city also has a large Indian community that maintains and passes on its culinary traditions. In Durban, people cook with lots of spices and intense flavors. The ingredients often come from local markets, which offer a wide selection of fresh produce. The people of Durban love their spicy dishes and are happy to share this passion with us visitors.


This is how you eat in Johannesburg
This is how you eat in Johannesburg



Johannesburg is the economic center of South Africa. Since the city is a melting pot of cultures, this is reflected in the cuisine. Here we find modern forms of traditional dishes. Chefs in Johannesburg like to experiment and combine old recipes with new techniques and ingredients. The ingredients come from all over the world, but local products also play a major role. Markets and delicatessens also offer a wide range of fresh ingredients. Therefore, in Johannesburg we encounter innovative and creative cooking styles that reinterpret traditional South African cuisine.


The Zulu people cook a lot with Dutch ovens
The Zulu people cook a lot in the Dutch oven Image by katya10 from Pixabay


Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal offer traditional South African dishes

In the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, Zulu cuisine takes center stage. Since this region is rich in traditional culture, this is reflected in the food. Zulu cuisine uses many local ingredients such as vegetables, corn and meat, often prepared in traditional ways. The people of this region still cook according to the recipes of their ancestors, which have been passed down from generation to generation. Markets in towns and villages therefore offer a large selection of fresh, local ingredients. In KwaZulu-Natal, families and groups often cook together, showing that South African cuisine is an important part of this region's social and cultural identity.

Famous South African Food

South African cuisine offers a variety of famous dishes. What's exciting is how differently they are prepared. From traditional techniques to modern interpretations, everything is included.


South African cuisine includes a braai
The braai is typical Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash


Braai, the BBQ of South African cuisine

South African cuisine is not complete without Braai, the South African BBQ. Because Braai is a tradition and a social event. Family and friends come together to grill meat over an open fire. Different types of meat are used. Beef, lamb and chicken are very popular. The preparation methods are varied because some prefer marinated steaks, while others love sausages or chops. The fire and smoke give the meat a special taste. We can learn a lot about South African culture by attending a braai. Because it's not just about eating, it's also about being together.

On many of my safaris through the national parks in KwaZulu-Natal, a braai with grilled game meat was often waiting for us at the end of our game viewing. It was not uncommon for warthog, buffalo meat or even giraffe to be put on the grill. Even in big cities like Johannesburg, I often ate in restaurants where game meat was on the menu. My absolute highlight was Warthog. You should not miss that.


Bobotie - South African cuisine
The Cape Malays brought Bobotie with them cherrylet, CC BY 2.0 License, via Wikimedia Commons


Bobotie comes from the Cape Malay cuisine of South Africa

South African cuisine offers us many exciting dishes. One of them is bobotie, a minced meat casserole. The history of this dish goes back a long way, as it was originally introduced by Dutch settlers and later developed by Malay slaves. The ingredients are varied, with minced meat, eggs and bread forming the basis. Spices such as turmeric, ginger and bay leaves give the dish its special taste. Fruits such as apricots or raisins are often added to achieve a sweet note. You can find a recipe for it here.

Bobotie is definitely one of my favorite recipes from South Africa. We do this all the time in our own kitchen at home.


Biltong from South African cuisine
Biltong is suitable for overland treks Image by Daniel Albany from Pixabay


Biltong is one of the authentic South African recipes

One of the most famous specialties from South African cuisine is biltong. It is jerky that is often compared to beef jerky, however the difference lies in the preparation. While beef jerky is mostly sweet and spicy, will Biltong air-dried and seasoned with vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. This method comes from the Dutch settlers who needed to preserve meat.

Today there are many modern versions of biltong. In addition to beef, game, chicken and even fish are also used. Many manufacturers are also experimenting with spices and flavors. Nevertheless, the traditional preparation remains very popular. We can find biltong in markets and stores because it is a popular snack and often used as a source of protein.

I often had biltong with me as a snack on my travels through South Africa, for a little hunger in between. This also helps over longer journeys when the next rest stop is a little further away.


Potjiekos from South African cuisine
Potjeko's Image by cindycrazycatlady from Pixabay



Potjiekos is a traditional South African stew prepared in a Dutch oven. The name “Potjiekos” literally means “small pot” and describes both the dish and the method of preparation.

Potjiekos are prepared over an open fire, which gives the dish a unique taste. The cast iron pot maintains heat well and ensures even cooking. Popular ingredients include meat, vegetables, potatoes and various spices. We can also use chicken, lamb or even fish depending on our preferences.

The Recipes for potjiekos are often family secrets that are passed down from generation to generation. But modern variants also find their way into South African cuisine. No matter whether traditional or modern, the preparation always remains a communal experience. Family and friends gather around the fire to cook and eat together. During my travels, the places I often visited with my groups often had a potjiekos to celebrate the day. It's a special experience to be part of one of these.


Chakalaka recipe from South Africa
Philipp from Cape Town, South Africa – Chakalaka, CC BY 2.0 License,


Chakalaka and Pap

Two of the most important side dishes in South African cuisine are chakalaka and pap. Shakalaka is a spicy vegetable dish often made with onions, tomatoes and beans. Since it originated in the townships, it is now valued throughout South Africa. Pap, a corn porridge, is a staple in South African cuisine, and it is often served as a side dish to meat dishes.

Chakalaka and Pap have a deep cultural background. Chakalaka represents creativity and ingenuity as it was originally prepared from the available ingredients of the people in the townships. Pap is a symbol of cohesion and community because it is served at many traditional festivals and family gatherings.

During my travels I often ate them in the shebeens, the pubs in the townships of Johannesburg. There they are part of everyday family food. They taste very good with grilled meat.


Markets Photo by Jacopo Maia on Unsplash


Street food and local markets offer South African cuisine

South African cuisine is an adventure for the senses, especially when it comes to street food and local markets. Because street food reflects the diversity and taste of the country. Everywhere in the cities you will find stalls and markets offering delicious snacks and dishes.

A popular street food dish Bunny chow. It comes from Durban and consists of a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with spicy curry. Another highlight is boerewors, a traditional sausage that is often served fresh from the grill. Because these dishes show the culinary diversity of South Africa and make street food a must.

For an authentic experience we should visit the local markets. The Neighborgoods Market in Johannesburg is a hotspot for foodies because there you will find a large selection of local and international delicacies. The Old Biscuit Mill Market in Cape Town is also very popular because it offers a mix of fresh food and artisan products.

A special highlight at the markets are the local favorites. Vetkoek, a fried dough pastry, is often offered with savory or sweet fillings. Samoosas, filled dumplings, are also very popular because they show the Indian influence on South African cuisine.


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Conclusion on South African cuisine:

South African cuisine offers a rich variety of culinary highlights. From braai and biltong to chakalaka and pap, there is a lot to discover. The cultural influences make every dish a special experience. You can explore the traditions and stories behind the food to better understand South African culture.

Try spicy curries in Durban, enjoy fresh fish in Cape Town and discover modern interpretations in Johannesburg. Visit local markets and street food festivals to taste the best dishes.

My personal recommendation: Take your time to get to know the different regions and their specialties. Every bite tells a story and brings you closer to the people and their traditions.


South African cuisine
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Do you know anything else?


Source: own research on site. My work as a tour guide often took me to South Africa. I got to know many restaurants, shebeens and dishes from South African cuisine.

Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline
Photos © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline as well as Wikimedia Commons, Pixabay and Unsplash
Video © Copyright Monika Fuchs and TravelWorldOnline

South African cuisine – a delight for gourmets and travelers

Monika Fuchs

Monika Fuchs and Petar Fuchs are the authors and publishers of the Slow Travel and Enjoyment travel blog TravelWorldOnline Traveller. You have been publishing this blog since 2005. TravelWorldOnline has been online since 2001. Your topics are Trips to Savor and wine tourism worldwide and Slow Travel. During her studies, Monika Fuchs spent some time in North America, where she traveled to the USA and Canada - sometimes together with Petar Fuchs - and spent a research year in British Columbia. This strengthened her thirst for knowledge, which she pursued for 6 years Adventure Guide for Rotel Tours and then for 11 years as Study tour guide for Studiosus Reisen tried to breastfeed all over the world. She constantly expanded her travel regions, but curiosity still gnawed at her: “What is beyond the horizon? What else is there to discover in this city? Which people are interesting here? What do you eat in this region?” These are the questions she is now trying to answer as a freelance travel journalist (her articles have appeared in DIE ZEIT, 360° Canada, 360° USA, etc.), among others. travel writer and travel blogger answers in many countries around the world. Petar Fuchs produces the videos on this blog as well as on YouTube. Monika Fuchs from TravelWorldOnline is below Germany's top 50 bloggers in 2021 Other Information about Monika and Petar Fuchs. Recommendations on LinkedIn from tourism experts Further recommendations from cooperation partners and tourism experts Professional experience Monika on LinkedIn

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