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8 Foods in South Africa You Have to Try

Written by: Vicky Philpott

Did you know that South Africa has some real treats when it comes to the local cuisine?
For some reason, South African food hasn’t really caught on over in the UK. I mean, when was the last time you popped out to a Saffa restaurant for some Bunny chow?
Unfortunately this means you’ll probably arrive in South Africa totally clueless about what you should be eating. Try not to stick to the tried and tested familiar choices – travel is all about enhancing the mind as well as your waistline. It’s time for you to get a quick education on what to eat in South Africa so you know exactly what to order when you get there.

1. Boerewors

Apologies veggies, this one is for the meat lovers. Boerewors are traditional South African sausages full of taste and sizzle. A little like a Cumberland, they may not be the most exotic, but they’re made of the best local beef and, cooked up on a smoking hot grill, absolutely essential when you’re travelling on through.
Just like home you can choose to put it in a bap, dip in some sauce or eat solo.

2. Bunny chow

Don’t worry, Thumper is safe. No actual bunnies are harmed during the making of this curry.
Originating from Durban, this dish is usually made with chicken, mince or lamb. Too good for a mere bowl, South Africans serve it up in a crusty half loaf of bread hollowed out then filled to the brim.
Extremely cheap and totally filling, bunny chow is the perfect backpacker meal. You can find all the best ones in Durban, in places like Cane Cutter’s and Impulse by the Sea.

3. Chakalaka and pap

The name sounds exotic, but for locals this dish is a weekly staple. The chakalaka is a mix of cold veggies – like peppers, carrots, onions, tomatoes and beans – mixed in with some spice. You then use the pap, a maize and salt mixture, to scoop it up and devour it.
It’s basically a South African take on chips and dip and is an ideal pre-dinner or post-night out snack.

4. Koeksisters

Sweeten things up with South Africa’s answer to the donut. A koeksister is fried dough dipped in honey and braided into a long strip. You’ll find the best of these in Cape Malay, where the sweet treat originated from.

5. Gatsby

If, like me, you were envisaging some glamorous dish reserved only for the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio then think again, because a Gatsby in South Africa couldn’t be further away from glam.
A foot long sub, this sandwich is stuffed with all sorts – chips are a common filling – and designed for sharing with not just one friend, but up to four. South Africans, particularly those in the Cape area, view the bap as a big part of South African culture and for visitors, sampling the sarnie is a rite of passage. Top places to try it include Cape Town’s Cosy Corner, Anesa’s and Biesmiellah.

6. Smiley

Erring on the unusual side, we’re not sure you’ll be smiling once you see this dish. This is a sheep’s head that’s basically boiled until the burnt hair reveals the teeth in a smile.
A street food favourite in smaller towns, you can dig right in on the street or take it along on your next journey as an ideal bus snack. Be sure to check it comes with the brains, tongues and eyes, otherwise there’s a good chance you didn’t get enough Billy for your buck.

7. Melktart

Another one for dessert lovers, melktart is made of sugar, pastry, flour and eggs. As traditional as a goat’s head isn’t, it’s a great finish to any South African meal.
In fact, it’s loved so much that locals dedicate a whole day to it on February 27th. With every region adding its own twist, you can easily sample a few different varieties and enjoy the subtle sweetness and cheesecake consistency over and over again.

8. Amarula Don Pedro

Wash it all down with a milkshake, or is it a cocktail? It seems no one can quite decide what this thick and creamy beverage really is, but combining a love of our two favourite beverages works for us.
Made with amarula liqueur, a dollop of ice cream and a dash of cream (as if it isn’t sugary enough) it’s a sweet fix with a hard hit. A popular recipe in most family cookbooks, you’ll find it in bars and restaurants countrywide, and it’s absolutely delicious.

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