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South African Cuisine

Xhosa Cuisine of South Africa

Xhosa Food: Maize Meal
Xhosa Food: Maize Meal

The Xhosa culture is one of the most commonly found in South Africa. These people traditionally occupy the south-eastern parts of the country, including Port Elizabeth, East London and the Transkei / Wild Coast area. There is also a large Xhosa community in Cape Town in the Western Cape Province. This is the second most widely spoken language in South Africa, after Zulu, and dates back centuries.

The cuisine of the AmaXhosa, as the people are known, comprises a combination of red and white meat (including game as well as other domestic varieties like goat), vegetables, samp and grains. Mieliepap is maize meal, and forms a major part of the Xhosa diet. It is frequently mixed with sugar beans and a little animal fat (or bones) for flavour. This is known as umngqusho. It can be eaten on its own or as a starch with other dishes. This has permeated many other cultures and homes in South Africa, and is enjoyed by all colours and languages in the modern Rainbow Nation. Umvubo refers to dry pap (or porridge) that is mixed with sour milk; another popular favourite.

African Cuisine: Xhosa
African Cuisine: Xhosa
The vegetables that have been a traditional part of the Xhosa diet were always those that were grown by the farmers and families of any given Xhosa community. Therefore, the precise varieties depended on the soil and the weather of that particular region. These vegetables include leafy green vegetables like spinach and beetroot, as well as pumpkin, potatoes, cabbages and corn.

The livestock of the Xhosa community has always been a valuable commodity. In fact, these animals meant the very survival of the village and represented the wealth of the individuals and of the village as a whole. So, while chickens and goats were common meats for consumption, sheep and cows were generally preserved for special occasions and ceremonies. At these events, the slaughter formed (and still forms) part of the entire ceremony and is an integral part of their beliefs that centre on ancestors and appeasing their forefathers through rituals.

Xhosa Cuisine: Lamb stew
Xhosa Cuisine: Lamb stew
After the ritual, the meat from the animal is consumed, usually by a large group of extended family members and friends. Rituals are performed as part of ‘coming of age’ celebrations, as well as of weddings and funerals.

The Xhosa culture is marked by its hospitable nature and its sense of community. The catering arrangements indicate this. A Xhosa family will welcome guests, even unexpected ones, with food and beverages. It is considered rude not to share your food with others. This hails back to the days when the Xhosa society was a close-knit one, and villages were made up of friends and family of a single clan. While this may not be the case in urban South Africa, these standards remain. Visitors that take the time to get to know Xhosa locals will immediately be privy to their undeniable sense of hospitality and generosity.

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Did You Know?
Thanks to the cosmopolitan nature of this country, the restaurants of South Africa offer a wide variety of international cuisine types too. These vary from Eastern favourites (Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and so on) to German eateries, English cafés, Moroccan food stalls and American-style diners.

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Cuisine: Xhosa Cuisine of South Africa
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