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HHungry 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. 

 

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 is then 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. 

 

 

Travel tips & planning info 

Who to contact 

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. 

Things to do  

Visitors to the Free State region are encouraged to visit the Basotho Cultural Village located in Qwaqwa Nature Park which has recently been incorporated into Golden Gate Highlands National Park. There are plenty of activities for tourists in this area ranging from hiking to camping. While you’re around visit the charming town of Clarens for a day of craft beer and art galleries. 

What to pack  

Pack a large appetite! 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. 

Related links 

  • Eat Out – The Ultimate Guide to South Africa’s Most Iconic Foods 

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