South Africa Traditional Food

South African Food is Lekker!

South Africa traditional food and cuisine is best known in Cape Town as Cape Dutch or Cape Malay style cooking. As the traditional cuisine in South Africa was influenced by the cooking styles of the slaves that were brought to the Cape from Malaysia and Java, the dominant spices in the South African cuisine are chill, curry, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.

Traditional Potjiekos

The South African cooking mainly consists of chicken, game, tomatoes, lemons and limes, corn (mealie) in form of breads and flour, beans as well as ginger, chili and spices.

South Africans love the outdoors and enjoy to have lunch or dinner which was cooked on a fireplace. They love to cook over wood fire or coals and either cook a steaming 'potjiekos', so named for the food 'kos' cooked in a back iron pot, which is called 'potjie' in Afrikaans or they gather for a 'braai', the South African equivalent of a barbecue. Many South African houses have a built-in 'braaiplace' or grill/oven on the verandah. 

What is typical South African food?

There is a variety of typical South Africa food, which is very popular. Among the most common produce and dishes are:

biltong: dried cured meat, mainly from beef and game

game: particularly springbok, kudu, impala, even warthog or crocodile;)

ostrich: healthy red meat, popular due to low cholesterol but high protein content

boerewors: Farmer’s sausage, mainly pork with spices and herbs, especially famous from the Grabouw area, which lies approx. 100km west of Cape Town

sosaties: marinated meat grilled on skewers

bobotie: layered lamb stew with rice, bananas, raisins, coconut milk

currys: in all forms due to the Indian influence

potjikos: vegetable or meaty stew cooked over coals and fire in a black round cast-iron pot

samoosas: stuffed fried pastry parcels with meat and veggies or vegetarian

mealie pap: cooked porridge made with sweetcorn flakes

waterblommetjie bredie: soup or stew made with meat cooked with water flowers from the Cape Pondweed

melktert: milktart, a milk flavoured cake

malva pudding: sweet Apricot flavored sponge cake

koeksisters: syrupy sweet twisted donut strips, looking like girls braids

kingklip: white fish

abalone and oysters from the West Coast, but beware of seasonal availability here too

snoek: a regional game fish, often available also as snoek pate

Restaurants serving traditional South Africa food

Here is a shortlist of our favorite restaurants for a taste of South Africa traditional food:

  • Gold: adjacent to the splendid Gold of Africa museum, this is not only a tourism magnet. With a wide variety of African food, they have a strong local following as well and convince with their very friendly service, surprisingly refreshing presentation of the dishes and the good quality of food.
  • Moyo: for that special open air experience and stunning views of Table Mountain in the distance. With poolside tables great in summer and wooly blankets are provided at the tables should the weather be not so clement in the winter days. There are usually dance and drumming shows and gum boot dances which are very entertaining. The dining experience includes also traditional face-painting. Combine this with a day out at Big Bay beach in Blouberg and all the family will be happy.
  • Jonkershuis: The typical Cape Malay food at this typical South African restaurant at one of Cape Town's best known wine estates, Groot Constantia, never disappoints. Book your table in time.
  • Ons Huisie: Situated in an old farmhouse, this is a popular small restaurant with locals who stop by for drinks and snacks after work. Delicious Cape Malay crayfish and seafood curries. Located on Small Bay beach, with a beer garden with lovely Atlantic Ocean views.

Do you want to learn cooking South Africa traditional food?

  • Do you want to learn how to cook delicious Cape Malay Food? Then take part in one of Cass Abraham's cooking classes. Read our review here.
  • Or take a class with a top chef who has her own culinary school now. Join one of Nadine's classes and spoil your taste buds. More here.

Anything else? If you have some experiences with South Africa traditional food you want to share or if you want to suggest other good places where you get delicious South African food please contact us here.

Do you want to get more information on South African traditional food, great restaurants and Cape Town activities, then subscribe to our Cape Town Insider Tips here.

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