Did you know?
Chinese immigrants arrived in large numbers in South Africa in the 1870s to seek their fortunes on the gold mines of the Witwatersrand and the diamond mines of Kimberley.
In South Africa, the influence of the flavours, spices and cooking techniques of the East is noticeable.
Not only has the last decade or so brought a flood of Indian, Chinese, Thai and Japanese restaurants into the country, but most top restaurant menus now feature fusion dishes, mingling Western and Eastern tastes. Even at the lower end of the scale, Chinese fast food and sushi bars are now as common as burger outlets.
With a large number of Indian descendants in South Africa, Indian restaurants are particularly prominent in all the big cities. Both fiery southern Indian cuisine and the milder northern fare can be found, as well as Goan seafood dishes. Some South African-inspired additions to Indian cuisine have also developed here, notably bunny chow, a hollowed out bread loaf filled with a down-to-earth curry.
Traditional South African food also owes much to the East, not least Cape Malay cuisine, which was brought to the Cape by slaves whose legacy can be found in the richly spiced dishes of bobotie (a mince dish), bredie (a stew with vegetables) and sosaties (satays), as well as sticky sweets like Cape Malay koeksisters and malva pudding. These are now an integral part of the national cuisine.
Similarly, some Chinese dishes have been adapted for South African taste, and Chinese cuisine can be found in exclusive restaurants as well at cheap and cheerful takeaways. Thai food is also popular.
Japanese dining, with theatrical touches seen in the preparation of shabu shabu or teppanyaki, has always been appreciated for its entertainment value. It can be a little pricey, but as a good night out, is generally considered worth the expense.
Other Asian restaurants you will find include Korean, Malaysian, Indonesian and Vietnamese.
When in Gauteng try one of the Koi restaurants, with outlets in Rosebank, Sandton and Lynnwood, where dim sum and sushi are given equal status.
In the Western Cape, take a trip out to Indochine on the Delaire Graff wine estate in Stellenbosch for a fusion menu of note; or splurge at Haiku in central Cape Town, which features Asian tapas.
Daruma, a long-established Japanese restaurant on the Marine Parade, is a Durban favourite, as is Gounden's in Umbilo, which is a great place for a spicy, traditional Indian curry.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Delaire Graff estate, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch
Tel: +27 (0)21 885 8160
Shop 19, The Firs, corner of Cradock and Bierman avenues, Rosebank
Tel: +27 (0)11 447 2440
39 Eaton Road, Umbilo, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal
Tel: +27 (0)31 205 5353
Best time to visit
Generally most restaurants are open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday through Saturday. Some restaurants are open on Mondays, but it's a good idea to check. In South Africa, kitchens often close around 9pm and many restaurants don't offer the late-dining option. It's a good idea to call ahead and make a reservation.
Tours to do
Visit the new Chinatown in Cyrildene, Johannesburg, where you can shop up a storm for Chinese/Taiwanese/Far East foods and curios. In Cape Town, the old Malay quarter known, as the Bo-Kaap, is a good place to sample Cape Malay food.
What will it cost
Prices vary vastly depending on whether you're going for a fast-food option or upscale fusion food. Enquire directly from the restaurant.
What to eat
The seafood curry at Gounden's is legendary, as is the tom yum kung soup at Koi and the tamarind beef sirloin at Indochine.