06 July 2014 by Daphney Mngomeni

South Africa's favourite township dishes

South Africa’s townships are alive with music, art and history, as well as a wide variety of tasty dishes. Why not treat your taste buds?

A plate full of colour. Image courtesy of Niel Chen

Walk through any South African township (a peri-urban dormitory suburb, created for black people during the apartheid era) on weekdays and Sunday afternoons, and your nose will catch the aromas of stews and steamed bread, or runaways (chicken feet) grilling over a fire.

South Africans pride themselves on being able to cook amazing, tantalising food, and making age-old dishes like potjiekos (food cooked in a cast-iron pot over coals) and umngqusho (samp and beans) taste better each time.

If you find yourself in a township early in the morning, treat yourself to a breakfast of scones, amakhekhe (queen's cakes), or vetkoek/amagwinya (deep-fried dumplings), the latter filled with anything from cheese and jam to polony and atchar, a South Asian pickle with a South African twist.

Amaskopas are a popular snack in the township. Image courtesy of dbrekke

The vetkoek can be a bit greasy, but are definitely worth every bite.

One can normally see long lines that go down the street and bend around the corner as people wait for their amagwinya to be ready before they rush off to work or school.

Looking for something to snack on while on your tour of a township?

You should definitely try runaways, or walkie-talkies (chicken feet and heads). These are not your ordinary cooked chicken feet; they are spiced and grilled over hot coals, and served with the sauce of your choice.

If you prefer to nibble on something less meaty, grab a packet of amashwamshwam (puffed chips) or amaskopas (coloured popcorn).

Lunchtime is the best time to be in any township. The wide range of filling meals will leave you spoiled for choice.

A kota in the making. Image courtesy of Erich

Grab a kota, a quarter-loaf of bread filled with fried chips, polony, Russian sausage, Vienna sausage, atchar and a sauce of your choice – or a slaai wat-wat, which is a variation of a kota with all the ingredients sandwiched between two, sometimes three, slices of bread.

Looking for something a bit more home-cooked? There are plenty of places in the township that sell delicious, filling meals such as mieliepap (maize porridge), or rice with beef or chicken stew, umngqusho with stew, or a firm favourite: tripe and trotters.

When the week ends and church services have taken place, everyone heads home with one thing on their mind: Sunday kos (lunch) – and everyone’s invited.

Sunday lunch is a big deal for families in the townships, as everyone gets together, unwinds and enjoys a plate filled with seven colours – beetroot, chakalaka (a chilli-and-tomato sauce), potato salad, three-bean salad, coleslaw, meat and rice or pap.

When your taste buds are satisfied and your tummy is full, grab a glass of homemade ginger beer or amarhewu (a fermented maize meal drink) to wash it all down.

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Category: Food & Wine

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