Afrikaans Food of South Africa
The Afrikaans culture in South Africa is an extremely diverse one, with plenty of influences (cultural, religious and culinary) from all over the world. This culture is unique to South Africa, and is the result of centuries of settlers streaming into the country and setting up their homes and farms here, alongside the indigenous tribes.
Originally, Dutch and French settlers colonised the open expanses of South Africa; setting up farms and vineyards and living off the rich produce of the land. The Afrikaans culture has its roots mainly in these two groups, but does, of course, have many other ties to European, African and Eastern elements. The Afrikaans language is marked by distinctive Dutch sounds and a linguistic structure, while many of the surnames have French origins.
As farmers, much of the original Afrikaans cuisine was based on what was available to them from their own land. Meat has always been a major part of this style of cooking. In fact, even sans cooking, meat features hugely. Biltong and dröewors are both forms of spiced, dried meat that can keep for extended periods of time without going off, despite never having been cooked.
Cooking meat over the hot coals of a fire has been done for centuries, but the Afrikaans folk have developed this into an art form known as the braai, which is the Afrikaans word for barbecue. Today, South Africans are proud of this important part of their culture, and it remains a characteristic of the local cuisine (See our annual event honouring the Braai!). However, braaiing is not confined to the Afrikaans folk. Rather, just about every South African loves a braai. This is a social form of entertaining, usually performed outside.
Whether in the garden at home, on a beach that allows fires or on a hike or picnic, braaiing is the cuisine of choice for many. Common braai meats include sosaties (kebabs), chops, sausage (known as boerewors), steaks and chicken pieces. It is common for the men to braai the food, while standing around the fire with cold beers, and the women to make the salads and breads that accompany the meat. Stywepap, which literally translates to “stiff porridge,” is often served with this meat as a starch, usually with a gravy or tomato and onion relish.
The farmers’ wives of yesteryear were acclaimed for their baking and cooking skills. Therefore, the homemade breads, preserves and pastries of this culture are still favoured. South African puddings are sweet and rich, with distinct influences from European dishes. Most famous of all Afrikaner desserts are, undoubtedly, melktert (milk tart with cinnamon) and koeksusters (plaited pastries that are steeped in syrup and sometimes dusted with coconut). Jams and marmalades are also important parts of the Afrikaans table, and can be made using just about any fruit. Common preserves are watermelon, fig, quince and apricot.
Visitors from all over the world are sure to enjoy the flavours of Afrikaans cooking. However, this cuisine comes with a warning – the portions are simply huge.
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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