5 of the most popular meals in South Africa

Travelling is all about exploring and learning more about the country.  However, it is not just about the attractions when travelling. Food plays an important part in discovering a country. Because everyone needs to eat!  Some countries have rather exotic dishes and might not be for everyone. When on your South African Safari does not mean that there would only be exotic dishes. Many of the proudly South African dishes are dishes that just got a South African flair, with it’s original from elsewhere in the world. When visiting South Africa, I would recommend that you try some of the following :


This would be a firm favourite among South Africans and in most households, this would be a tradition over weekends. To braai, would be to cook your meat over an open fire. Mostly known as a BBQ. However, South Africans prefer to make a wood fire, overusing a gas griller.  

Items that would be braaied, would include steaks, pork chops, sausage (locally known as boerewors), chicken and sosaties. This would be cubes of either meat or chicken placed on a stick, sometimes with pepper and onion pieces. But being a firm favourite cooking option for South Africans, most items can be done on the braai. Other options include fish, vegetable skewers, toasted sandwiches and pizzas  


One is for sure, South African love to make fire. Whether it would just be to add a little ambience to the party or to cook food. Another traditional option would be a potjiekos. This would be similar to a stew but cooked in a cast iron pot over an open fire.

Any stew recipe would work for a potjiekos, but generally, it would be fresh vegetables layered over meat with a little sauce. Over the years there has been plenty of varieties from including pasta or even seafood. The secret of making a great potjie would be to control the heat and having it cook slowly. Potjiekos is great for a social event and feeding larger groups of people.   

Cape Malay Curry

When the Dutch arrived in South Africa in the 17th of century, they brought along their slaves from Indonesia, India and Malaysia. And with that brought their spices and cooking methods. Little did they know that this would be the start of the Cape Malay culture. A colourful culture that made the Bo-Kaap their home. They are known for cooking with aromatic spices, and a Cape Malay Curry is a favourite. This curry is usually a combination of sweet and savoury flavours and often includes dried fruits, especially apricots. The curries are either served with rice or Rotis. This would be a type of flatbread, great for soaking up the sauces. Sambals are also popular that includes sweet chutneys, tomato and onion and plain yoghurt. 


Pronounced, ba-bo-tea, is another traditional dish with some Cape Malay flare. Similar to Cottage Pie, this dish includes minced meat but with an egg and milk mixture topping. The minced meat is cooked with plenty of spices, similar to the Cape Malay curry, but raisins often added. A mixture of egg and milk is then poured over and placed in the oven to bake until set. This is served with chutney to complement the sweet taste of the raisins.


No meal is complete without dessert. And there are a few traditional options when visiting South Africa.

Often served in winter, is malva pudding. This would be similar to a British sticky toffee pudding. Malva pudding is a sweet and sticky baked sponge pudding including apricot jam and once out the oven a hot sauce of cream and sugar is poured over the top. A great helping is served with custard.

Whether for dessert or as a tea time treat, melktert (milk tart) and koeksisters are almost always on the menu. Milk tart would have a sweet pastry crust and a light filling, similar to a cheesecake, but predominantly tastes like milk. The secret to the filling would be to have the ratio right so that it would set. The tart is almost always topped with powered cinnamon.

Koeksisters is another popular item of the Cape Malay. Almost like a Chinese bowtie, but thicker and much sweeter. Making a koeksister would involve twisting and plaiting dough and then fried until golden brown. Once removed from the hot oil, the koeksister is immediately put into a cold syrup. The koeksister then absorbs all the sweetness until crispy.  It would be hard to just have one!

Travelling to South Africa is surely a culinary experience as much as any other. Staying at a game lodge, you would be able to experience most of these dishes, but it is also worth visiting some of the local restaurants or even booking a cooking tour of the Bo-Kaap or in a township. Nothing like the first-hand experience and getting the recipes to take home and share with your friends and family! Coming hungry and South Africa will prickle your tastebuds.