South African Food and Cuisine
South Africa is the land of diversity. Its people, landscapes, cultures and languages offer a melting pot of intrigue and excitement. In addition, it has a long and complex history. All of this combines to create the modern mix of cuisine that defines this land, delighting locals and visitors alike in its range and flavours.
South African cuisine is a unique fusion of many different external cultural influences. These include Dutch, French, Indian and Malaysian flavours and techniques that continue to make their way onto the menus of restaurants and into the homes of locals all over the country. This has translated to a smorgasbord of textures, tastes and aromas that lure visitors back to sample more of the tasty treats on offer here.
One of the most significant influences is that of the Dutch that settled in South Africa in the 1600’s. They were soon joined by French Huguenots as well as a number of Germans. This combination led to what is today known as the Afrikaans style of cooking. Because these folk traversed the country in search of places to settle, and had no sort of refrigeration devices, they were known for their dried meats (biltong, which is similar to jerky, and dröewors, a dried sausage) and their liberal use of spices and salts for the preservation of foods.
Today, Afrikaans cooking typically consists of plenty of red meat (grilled, barbecued or roasted), potatoes and / or rice, and vegetables that are enhanced with butter and sugar. Desserts are popular, and are often based on old favourites that would have lasted a few days. This includes biscuits, rusks, and sugary pastries. The braai (barbecue) is one of the best known “cuisine” types in South Africa. Red meat, like spiced sausages, chops, kebabs, steaks and pork rashers are put over hot coals, infusing them with an unrivalled smoky flavour. This is a particularly social kind of cooking, since it is typically enjoyed outside and is most often undertaken by the men in the family. Side dishes include bread rolls and plenty of different kinds of salads.
Vegetables are important to the African communities and include a range of green, leafy varieties. In addition, meat is an important ingredient of African cooking. Traditionally, meat has come from their own livestock. Therefore, it had to be used sparingly and wisely (and often only for special occasions). This means that stews and similar one-pot dishes that are easily created over the fire are characteristic of this type of cuisine. Famous African dishes include tripe, mieliepap (corn-based porridge usually fortified with animal fat, beans and vegetables), samp and beans, sour milk porridge, dumplings and even more adventurous dishes like Mopane worms (see Venda Cuisine).
Another very important influence is that of the Malays. These Eastern peoples were brought to South Africa as slaves for the European settlers in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. They brought with them the secrets of their marvellous cooking and delicious dishes.
Of course, thanks to the enormous variety of wildlife in South Africa, some rather unusual dishes are also available here. Visitors are encouraged to sample crocodile, ostrich, kudu, sheep heads, Mopane worms, and warthog.
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.
Still, while in South Africa, visitors are urged to try some of the local flavours to get a real idea of its culture.
Here are some of the top suggestions for those that want a taste of South Africa:
• Sosaties (marinated kebabs that are cooked over the open flame)
• Bobotie (a Cape Malay version of Shepherd’s Pie)
• Boerewors (seasoned sausage)
• Bredie (a Cape Malay stew. Well known varieties include tomato bredie and waterblommetjie bredie)
• Potjiekos (an Afrikaans stew cooked in a three-legged cast-iron pot)
• Melktert (milk tart)
• Pickled fish
• Koeksisters (a syrupy braided pastry)
• Samoosas (a triangular Indian pastry filled with meat and / or vegetables).
Different Cuisine Types of South Africa
The cuisine of the African people has roots in their lives before colonisation. At this time, many were farmers, while others were hunter-gatherers. In either case, they lived off the land and made this their way of life. This respect for and dependence on the land fostered a keen respect for natural... more info
The Venda tribes relied on what grew successfully to form the basis of their traditional cuisine. While this is a combination of grains and vegetables, maize is, without a doubt, the main ingredient of the Venda cuisine. Maize porridge is a common item on the Venda menu. It can... more info
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... more info
Since the Zulu people originally relied on the land for sustenance, their diet was made up mainly of the grain and vegetables that they farmed and the meat that their own animals provided. Today, sorghum and maize starches remain the staple food of the Zulu folk. These are eaten as stiff porridges, softer... more info
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 has... more info
The food introduced by the English colonial settlers was just typically British. Today, many of the white citizens still have roots (whether actual ties or just genetic origin) in the United Kingdom, despite being fully fledged South Africans. This continues to influence ... more info
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