03 September 2013 by Elin Reitehaug

Vegetarian heaven in South Africa

I have never eaten so well on the African continent as I did in South Africa! I have travelled to the east, west and south of Africa, and finding vegetarian options is not always easy.

As a total foodie, I love to taste my way through local specialties – but often everything is cooked in a meat broth. 

I have eaten my share of chapatti and egg, weird combinations like kale or boiled carrots and chips, and I have eaten plain rice or nuts and bread for days – but all this in rural areas. In big cities it is always possible to hunt down a nice vegetarian option. And if the local spots let you down on vegetarian options, most cities always have a pizzeria or Chinese or Indian restaurant. 

When I close my eyes I'm able travel the world through images of the delicious veggie food I've eaten around the globe – and many of these images are from South Africa!

No matter where we stopped, there were always vegetarian options on the menu.

I must put one thing straight, though: in South Africa I travelled with a group, and ate mainly in restaurants and not on the street. Since most of South Africa's traditional foods are often meat-based dishes, I was concerned there would not be a wide range of options when it came to small local eateries and street-food vendors. In restaurants, however, no matter where we stopped, there were always vegetarian options on the menu. 

I even learned that South African Tourism has put together a book about vegetarian and vegan diets to teach the tourism industry and restaurants what these diets are all about – including a wide variety of recipes for restaurants to cater for vegetarian travellers. I was impressed, and to be honest, the vegetarian selections in South Africa were often far more tempting than in my native Norwegian restaurants.

Here are some of my culinary highlights in South Africa:

I had my first meal in South Africa at Moyo in Zoo Lake, Johannesburg, along with three other travel bloggers. I loved the ambience of the place, and the menu had some great vegetarian options – including the veggie version of some traditional South African dishes. I had the lentil bobotie with some honey-glazed veggies on the side. I returned to Moyo several times during my stay in South Africa. There are branches in several cities.

At Siesta Tapas Bistro in Hartbeesport I had a lovely dish of two types of mushroom sautéed in olive oil, with chilli and a touch of truffle oil, topped with goat's cheese. Mushroom is one of my absolute favourite foods!

After an adventurous day taking in the sunrise from a hot air balloon and walking with lions in Utukula Lion Park, we had a relaxing evening with dinner at Doppio Zero in Rosebank. I had the Veg Spread platter with grilled butternut, brinjals (eggplant), creamed spinach, roast potatoes, grilled haloumi and a lemon coriander hummus.

Pancake-mania in Graskop. I didn't see pancake houses anywhere in South Africa other than in Graskop – and this sleepy little town had three! (Maybe it's due to the tourists passing by on the drive to the Panorama Route?) At Harrie's Pancakes I was unable to make a choice between a cheese pancake and a cinnamon pancake – so I had them both!

The creamed pasta with mushroom at the Lukimbi Safari Lodge restaurant was tasty – and the restaurant had a lovely ambience. On some nights, the tables were set outdoors, where we were able to enjoy a selection of starters, main courses and desserts by the light of a bonfire and candlelight. And although there was a barbecue night, some delicious veggie options were made for me on request.

If you're up for some fast food, Steers serves veggie burgers! Nothing fancy, but exactly what you'd expect from fast food. A Stoney on the side makes it all so much better!

Sakhumzi Restaurant in Soweto serves a buffet with a selection of traditional dishes, along with salads and some pasta dishes ... and there were definitely enough vegetarian options.

Chocolate spring rolls! Soooo delicious – you can get them at Simply Asia, which has several branches around South Africa.

Bunny chow is the fast food of Durban, and consists of a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with a spicy curry stew – and you can always choose it with the bean stew It’s usually served wrapped in newspapers. Go local and eat with your hands!

I'm still dreaming of the Vegetarian Stacker at Fat Baz in Durban – a stack of mashed potatoes with layers of creamed spinach, brinjals, roasted red peppers, mushrooms sprinkled with roasted almonds and grilled haloumi cheese.

Make sure to visit some spice markets to stock up on all kinds of spices so you can do some South African-inspired cooking when you get home!

It was just not the food that was great in South Africa – my breakfast view in Durban was not bad either!

Have you had some delicious vegetarian food in South Africa? Please leave a comment to share it with us!

  • About the author: Elin Reitehaug (aka Taste of Slow) is a former scientist, now taking a gap year to study journalism, travel, blog and soak up sweet moments. She is from Norway, for the moment based in Ghana. She loves people, veggie food, travel, reggae, lazy days, culture shocks and dancing. Visit her blog about travel and vegetarian food, and connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Category: Food & Wine

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