5 Traditional South African dishes worth trying

Today South African cuisine bears marks of Malay, German, Indian, Dutch, British and French influence. 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu coined up the phrase "rainbow nation." attesting to the diversity that makes up South Africa. The nation is woven into a dynamic mix of European and East Asian cultures, brought about by the immigration wave that marked most of the 18 and 19 centuries. 

The country enjoys an abundance of seafood, lamb, wild game, fruits, veggies, and a lot more that make up its most of its exports. A while back, the staple of South African cooking was rice, meat, and potatoes which slowly changed over time. Today, everything appears spiced up and curried, not to mention the sweet variations of meat, fish and game desserts. Here are five of the top traditional delicacies you must try.


History dates bobotie to Europe during the crusade era, after which it was introduced to Africa by the Dutch or the Malays. It’s South African equivalent is a meat pie of coarsely ground lamb accompanied with curry, lemon toppings, fruits, and milk and eggs custard. Seasonings vary with preference, but the staples are coriander, rosemary, and ground chili.


Braai is much more than a meal, it’s a culture. From the outside Cape townships to the fancy suburbs, the language is one - Braai. In Afrikaans, the word means grill. Afrikaans is an evolved language, originating from the interactions between the Malay, Dutch, Zulu, and Xhosa. As a country with 11 recognized official languages, Braai is formally recognized by all of them. Braai marks special occasions or none at all, it’s just irresistible. It can be warthog steaks, chicken breasts, giant prawns, springboks game, you name it! South Africa is definitely a meat-loving country.

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Time for tea? Not without koeksisters. I would have easily dismissed Koeksisters till I discovered it had a National Day in its honor. The depth of their entrenchment in South African culture and history culminated in the Nelson Mandela shared a cup of tea with Hendrik Verwoerd’s widow Betsie in Orania, back in 1995. The Cape Malay invention of the delicacy comprises spicy doughed rolled up in coconut, while the traditional version is sticky-sugary with a rubbing of honey on the surface.


Meat snack time. What can be easily mistaken as jerky sticks, this form of South African beef can be marinated into traditional ingredients such as pepper, coriander, salt, and vinegar. After undergoing air drying, it is then sliced into strips. Many establishments globally are adding biltong into their product lines. To differentiate biltong from jerky, the production process does not require cooking, hence the distinct flavor and texture.


Known as the farmer’s sausage, boerewors are made of minced beef spiced up with coriander, nutmeg, and clove spice. Many locals relish traditionally-inspired boerewors and have them served during braai.