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Traditional foods of South Africa

Many people ask about traditional foods of South Africa, only to receive a rather vague answer. The reason is that South Africa has such a colourful history and diverse cultural composition, and of course foods and culture go hand in hand, making South Africa an exciting place to explore for those interested in exploring different flavours and textures in food.

The traditional foods of South Africa from the indigenous perspective would centre around fruit, bulbs, nuts, leaves and wild game. Over the years there have been influences on the diet of the indigenous people, such as the introduction of  maize, which has become such an integral part of traditional African cooking that many people assume the maize to be an indigenous plant.

With the colonial era came a variety of culinary influences, from Holland, Germany, France, Great Britain and India. Many times the “traditional South African recipes” people talk about are in fact recipes introduced during colonial times, when the use of spices like nutmeg, allspice and peppers became popular. This “Cape Dutch” cooking style owes a lot to the influence of culture foods introduced by slaves from Java, Malaysia and Bengal, who were brought to the Cape by the Dutch East India Company.

Some traditional South African food and dishes include:

  • Bobotie – Taken from Malay influence, this is a meatloaf with raisins and baked egg served with yellow rice and chutney.
  • Chutney – A fruit sauce with a sweet taste added to meat dishes.
  • Koeksisters – Very very sweet deep fried pastries.
  • Milk tart – Milk based tart.
  • Potjiekos – African stew made in a cast-iron pot over hot coals.
  • Mashonzha – Mompane worms, for the more adventurous.
  • Ostrich – Ostrich meat stewed, filleted or grilled.
  • There are many many more traditional dishes to be experienced in South Africa, so go ahead and taste everything you can when visiting South Africa!

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