The Rainbow Cuisine of South Africa

Cuisine of South AfricaIn a land roughly twice the size of Texas, the food of modern South Africa came about through the eating habits of the indigenous people plus all those who either came as explorers or immigrants or were brought to the country as slaves.

The black populations, the hunter/gatherers, ate their traditional foods such as berries, game, coconuts, tortoise, crayfish and insects. The Bantu, northern African people, introduced modern agriculture to the area, growing sweet potatoes, squash, corn (‘mealies’), root vegetables and sorghum.
Then the Europeans came. The Portuguese arrived first, followed by the Dutch in the mid-1600s. These people brought with them potatoes, watermelons, pineapple, cucumbers. With the trade the Dutch East India Company did between Europe, Africa and India, more new people arrived with their strange foods.

The French brought with them the vines that would change the landscape and South Africa’s eating and drinking habits. The British and Germans came to build their empires and brought baked goods, meat pies and other things with them. Trade with China, India and Indonesia has also had an impact on the local food.

Eating Out in South Africa

When visiting South Africa, you might be tempted to try the local cuisine or play it safe and look for what you know.

Potjiekos - Cuisine of South AfricaFor those who want to play it safe, there are all the globally known cuisines – you can find spaghetti bolognese, hamburgers, pad thai and sushi plus lots more. In the major cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban, you’ll find restaurants that serve Chinese, French, Portuguese, Indian, Japanese, Moroccan, Greek, Korean, Brazilian and even Congolese food. And then there is ‘fusion food’ – mixing north and south as well as east and west – created by innovative chefs.

Finding more authentic South African food is likely to be a bit more challenging but it is possible such as at the African Café in Cape Town, Wandie’s Place in Soweto or Gramadoelas in Johannesburg. There are, of course, other smaller restaurants all over South Africa that sell the better known national dishes such as biltong (spiced, salted, dried meat, similar to jerky), bobotie, (according to some, an improved version of the British shepherd’s pie) or boerewors (hand-made sausages, often flame grilled).

But what if you want to “get into the real food of South Africa” for instance, crocodile, impala, kudu or sheep’s head or even those yummy, protein-rich fried caterpillars – where would you find those? There are restaurants offering various game dishes but these more “interesting” dishes will take some searching out.

All in all, one might say that with all this multicultural combination of foods, spices and cooking techniques, together with the original indigenous culture, a true “rainbow cuisine” awaits those interested in food.

One Response to “The Rainbow Cuisine of South Africa

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