Hungry travellers and epicurean adventurers need look no further. If you have an insatiable appetite for authenticity then Basotho cooking is for you. From tongue-tingling fermented porridge to meltingly soft ox-tail stews Basotho dishes combine new experiences with great tastes.

Did you know?

Sekokomogane spice is unique to the BaSotho people and is made by grinding marula seeds.

The Basotho people historically lived in a broad area that encompasses much of South Africa's Free State province and also the independent kingdom of Lesotho.

Urbanisation and migrant labour have ensured that you will now often hear the Sotho language spoken in Gauteng. In its traditional heartland Basotho cooking reflects the agricultural and culinary demands of cold winters and mountainous terrain.

There is a culture of vegetable preservation and many Basotho dishes are infused by the intense flavours of sun dried vegetables known as mangangajane.

There is a Basotho food preference for a fermented flavour which is a taste that can be confusing and disconcerting for the uninitiated palate but is well worth acquiring. Sorghum, millet and maize are ground, made into a polenta-like porridge dish which when fermented. This porridge has a yoghurt-like flavour and is known as ting. Steamed dumplings made with fermented maize meal are known as leqebekoane and are commonly added to stews.

Meat is luxury item but Basotho celebrations are commonly accompanied by braised oxtail which is traditionally served with dumplings, vegetable melanges and beetroot salad. Herd boys watching sheep and cattle catch wild game and hares to sustain themselves during their long mountain sojourns.

Those wishing to taste Basotho cooking in Pretoria should try Kwazi which makes a heavenly ting or Janicky's Place in Atteridgeville township which has moatwana chicken foot stew and mqombothi beer. In Bloemfontein try Buck Molakedi's Bush Pub for sechu sa khoho chicken stew. It all goes well with beer and good company which are always on the menu. When in Ladybrand Alida Bikane Catering and Tavern in Manyatseng township offers a delicious introduction to Basotho hospitality

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Kwazi
283 Esselen Street, Sunnyside Pretoria
Tel: +27 (0)21 341 8088

Janicky’s Restaurant
165 Monroe Street, Atteridgeville Pretoria
Tel: +27 (0)12 373 4238

Buck’s Tavern
219 Mochera Street, cnr Ngcayiya Rd, Bloemfontein, Free State
Tel: +27 (0)51 564 0733

Bush Pub
219 Mochera Street, cnr Ngcayiya Rd, Bloemfontein, Free State
Tel: +27 (0)51 564 0733

Alida Bikane Catering and Tavern
1390 Ramohapi Street Manyatseng, Lady Brand Free State
Cell: +27 (0)82 710 9714

Best time to visit

Basotho cuisine originated in the snow topped mountains of Lesotho and makes ideal winter comfort food. It is probably too heavy for summer enjoyment. Try to taste it June -September when the weather will suit its style.

What will it cost

Traditional food is available in a range of restaurants around South Africa. The price of a meal will vary according to venue but expect to pay a maximum of R200 per head including drinks.

What to eat

Essential tastes include ting fermented sorghum, traditional ginger beer, morogo wild spinach.

Best buys

Township and inner city street vendors will sell you morogo wild spinach. Dorah Sitole's book Cape To Cairo (Tafelberg publishers) offers an in depth discussion of African food genres.