Iconic South African foods
Iconic South African foods have their origins in the indigenous, colonial, and immigrant societies that, over many centuries, have made the South Africa their home. Some, like biltong, rusks, bobotie and curry have a historical connection.
Biltong, a dried, salted meat snack, and rusks, can be traced to the Afrikaans-speaking pioneers who trekked away from the Cape during the 1830s and 1840s.
Malay cooks, who arrived in the Cape colony from the mid-17th century onwards, created what is arguably one of South Africa’s national dishes: bobotie. Curry came to South African shores in the 1860s with the arrival of indentured Indian labourers in KwaZulu-Natal.
Almost all of our favourite South African food items and dishes have a cross-cultural element to them. This has been due to cross-transference of flavours (like Cape Malay cuisine), the adoption of new cooking methods (like braaing (barbequeing) or preparing a potjie) or the creation of a new genre of fusion food (such as 'kasi' cuisine (township food), which has given us new South African food shisa nyama, chakalaka, and mngqusho.
Boerewors is another iconic South African food with as many regional and cultural variations as there are braais on which to sizzle it. Likewise, melktert (milk tart) and koeksisters are indelibly South African.
Other iconic South African foods retain a strong sense of place. The Western Cape is the place to go for snoek fish; and Rooibos, our world famous herbal drink, grows exclusively in the Cederberg. No visitor should leave the Marico, in the North West province, without at least a sip of mampoer (a potent white brandy spirit); or visit Durban without tasting the delicious curried bliss that is a bunny chow.
Our iconic South African foods are deeply rooted in our national consciousness. The markers of our culinary identity. We embrace them with enthusiasm and consume them with relish. We urge you to join the feast.