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Best traditional dishes to try in South Africa

Thrill seekers have many reasons to visit South Africa. It’s one of the adventure capitals of the world and home to many adrenaline-inducing activities; but South Africa isn’t just about adventure. It’s home to some of the best and most diverse food in Africa and a wine tradition that dates back to the middle of the 17th century. The food in South Africa is a fusion of indigenous cooking and many external cultural influences. These include Dutch, French, Indian, and Southeast Asian. For your next trip to this beautiful country, here’s our list of South African foods that you simply have to try.

Shisa nyama/ Braai

For a real taste of South Africa an authentic braai or shisa nyama (‘burn the meat’ in Zulu) is an eating experience not to be missed. Braais originated in the townships of Johannesburg, with butchers who set up barbecues in front of their shops at weekends to grill their meat and sell it on the street. Nowadays, local communities gather at braais at the weekends to share food. Pop along to soak up the vibrant atmosphere, listen to music and take your pick from the meat on offer, usually comprising of beef, chicken, pork, lamb and wors (sausages).

Biltong and Droëwors (Dried Sausage)

Biltong and Droëwors are cured meat consumed as tasty snacks. This delicacy is culturally associated with watching rugby, cricket, and football, the most popular sports in the country, or while traveling on long road trips. Biltong is meat cuts soaked in a brine and hung to cure. This is an ancient maritime method of preserving meat.


Popular in Afrikaner cooking, vetkoek is basically a fried doughbread. The word means “fat cake” and is similar to the Dutch oliebollen. It can be accompanied by sweet or savoury toppings like minced curry and chutney.

Potjiekos (Small-Pot Food)

As with braai, potjiekos encompasses a style of cooking, rather than a particular recipe. Literally meaning ‘small pot food’, the practice was brought to South Africa by the Dutch through the seventeenth century. Over time, this cooking method grew in popularity among both natives and settlers across South Africa. Traditionally, a small, rounded cast iron cauldron is used. This is placed over a wood fire to cook outside for several hours.


This tasty tea-time treat made by frying pleated-dough pieces, koeksisters become even sweeter after adding a sugary syrup. They have a golden, crunchy crust, a soft, doughnut-like centre, and are super sticky. The Cape Malay version, compared to the more common sweet version, is rolled in desiccated coconut, and it has a slightly spicy flavour.

Bunny Chow

Bunny chow, or bunny for short, is a popular street food dish that originated from the Indian community of Durban. It can be made with quarter, half, or full loaves. The loaf is hollowed out then filled with mutton, chicken, or bean curries. The dish has become so common that simply saying “quarter mutton” is enough for vendors to know what you want.

Safari and adventure may be foremost in people’s minds when they think of South Africa. But there’s so much more to look forward to than just lions, elephants, and Cape buffalo. South African food is interesting and diverse and just one more reason why you should visit this beautiful country.

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