Did you know?
The San used to gather the Hoodia Gordonii cactus and chew it to suppress hunger.
In South Africa, indigenous cooking gives insight into who we are as a people. South Africa is a culturally-diverse society with many cooking methods that are unique to specific ethnic groups.
The San people are the first known human inhabitants of South Africa. Traditionally, San people lived as hunter-gatherers without iron-working technology and their culinary preparation methods reflect the tools available to them.
Historical accounts from 17th century Dutch settlers provide evidence of San techniques many of which have subsequently fallen into disuse, including indigenous roots used as sources of water, ostrich eggs as storage vessels, poultry cooked in a clay coating over the coals, and bread made from dried tuber-flour baked on hot flat stones.
Zulu, Xhosa Sotho, Tswana and Venda people share a range of indigenous cooking techniques. Common cooking methods reflect shared ancestry as iron-working, cattle herding peoples who migrated into Southern Africa from Central Africa approximately 4000 years ago.
Iron-working skills facilitated the manufacture of agricultural tools and the production of cooking pots, which in turn allowed for the production of stews, the fire-roasting of meat and the slow cooking of starches such as Xhosa umngqusho (dried maize and beans).
The cattle herd culture promoted use of dairy and fermenting of milk in a hollowed out calabash gourd. The calabash acts as a vessel and also as a method of infusing flavour into the milk.
Afrikaans cuisine is classified as South African indigenous cooking because it is a food genre created in Africa. The Afrikaans style cooking known as boerekos (farmer's food) reflects the pioneer culture of those Dutch settlers who trekked out of the Cape in 1835 to escape British colonial rule.
The popularity of cooking over an open fire (known as braaivleis) and the considerable effort put into drying ingredients such as rusks (dried biscuits) and biltong (dried meat) is indicative of such a lifestyle.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tours to do
If you're genuinely intrested in seeing indigenous cooking methods and utensils, there are excellent open-air museums around and cultural villages around the country where you can see the food being prepared according to time-honoured methods.
What will it cost
Traditional food is available in a range of restaurants around South Africa. The price of a meal will vary from venue to venue. Fine dining meals can cost upwards of R400 p/head but a meal at a township eatery may cost less than R30.