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Top 10 South African foods you should try


South Africa is quite a diverse country and the food is just as diverse as the people who live in it. If you’re looking to travel to South Africa soon or are seeking new foods to try out in the kitchen, consider any one of the ten South African foods below:

1. Bunny chow

amanderson2, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0), Flickr

A bunny chow is a classic South African Indian dish that originated in Durban. It’s made from half a loaf of bread and stuffing. It’s easy to make, with the process involving a half loaf of unsliced bread being hollowed out, and then stuffing being added inside. It’s usually stuffed with various types of curry, such as mixed vegetables, beans, mutton, lamb, and chicken. If spicy food is your thing, you’ll definitely enjoy the bunny chow it’s filling and tasty!


2. Kota

Credit: Food24 website

The Kota, similar to the bunny chow, is made from bread and stuffing. The difference between the bunny chow and the Kota is their places of origin. The bunny chow originates in Durban, whereas the Kota originates from black South African townships.

Added to that, only a quarter of bread is used to make the Kota, which is where the name originates. Instead of curry, kotas are filled with fries, eggs, Russian sausages, cheese, lettuce, and other ingredients.

This street food is also known as skambane and spathlo.


3. Magwinya/vetkoek/fat cakes

By NJR ZA – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Common

Magwinya (mug-win-ya), also known as vetkoek or fat cakes in English, are deep-fried pieces of dough that are eaten with savoury food. This food originated in the townships of South Africa.

South African favourites to pair with magwinya include fries, snoekfish, and white liver. This food is also a favourite in winter, with many South Africans pairing them with a hot cup of coffee or tea.


4. Biltong

By Delia du Plessis – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Common

Biltong is made from dried pieces of meat that are spiced. There are various type of biltong meat, from dry (the hard type) to medium and wet (the soft type). Biltong is usually made from beef, but other biltong meats include chicken, game, ostrich, and even fish.

This South African food is so popular that there are even vegetarian and vegan-friendly adaptations, made from dried mushrooms and other types of dried plant-based foods.


5. Mala mogodu, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0), Flickr

Mala mogodu is known as tripe in English. It is a delicious food made from the intestines of a cow or a sheep. Mogodu is boiled and spiced and then served with idombolo (dumpling) or pap (see number 10).

If you’re keen to try the South African version of tripe, try mala mogodu. Bear in mind that this food does take a long time to prepare as it has to be cleaned thoroughly and then cooked for approximately 2 hours.


6. Boerewors

Andy Roberts, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0), Flickr

Boerewors is a sausage made from ground beef. The word ‘boerewors’ is derived from an amalgamation of the Afrikaans/Dutch words boere, meaning farmer, and wors, meaning sausage. It’s popular in South Africa, Namibia and other parts of southern Africa.

The most popular ways to eat boerewors is with a roll (much like a hot dog) or with pap. It’s a prominent feature of South African braais (also known as barbeques across the globe).


7. Malva pudding

By Jon Mountjoy – Malva PuddingUploaded by Diádoco, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Common

Malva pudding is a South African baked dessert that is spongy in texture and is caramelised. It’s one of the most popular South African desserts, and once you taste it, it’s not hard to see why.

Malva pudding is usually served with custard or cream, and apricots.


8. Milk tart/melktert

By DimiTalen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Common

Milk tart, also known as melktert, is an Afrikaner dessert tart made from milk. It is sprinkled with cinnamon on the top and makes for a scrumptious snack or dessert.

The recipe for making milk tart is fairly simple, with the preparation time taking about an hour. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love milk tart.


9. Chakalaka

Credit: Food24 website

Chakalaka is a spicy relish that is made from beans, tomato paste, green or red peppers and garlic and ginger.

It’s served as a side and is a must-have for many South African functions. It is usually eaten with pap, rice or dumpling. You won’t attend a South African party, wedding or funeral that doesn’t serve chakalaka. That’s how important this dish is in traditional South African cuisine!


10. Pap

Kent Wang, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0), Flickr

Pap is a food made from maize meal. It can be made soft or stiff, and each South African tribal group makes theirs differently.

Pap is a staple food for millions of South Africans, primarily because of its affordability and versatility. It can be eaten at any time of the day and also forms the basis of many other South African dishes (see numbers 4, 6 and 9)

The list above doesn’t even cover the amount of South African foods you can try, but it’s a good place to start. Try any one of the ten above foods to experience the taste of delectable South African cuisine.

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