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Koeksisters are a wonderful example of food leaping across cultures. There are two versions: traditional Dutch/Afrikaans koeksisters are plaited twists of dough soaked in syrup with a crisp, golden crust; while the Cape Malay version has a lighter syrup, is sprinkled with coconut and spiced with cinnamon and cardamom.
Try it here: Wembley House in Cape Town does the Cape Malay version; Ouma Rooi Koeksisters serves up the old Dutch twist.
22. Bunny chow
Don’t worry: this dish doesn’t contain any actual bunnies. A bunny chow is a hollowed-chunk of bread filled with curry that’s become a popular fast food. The dish dates back to when migrant Indian workers worked in the cane fields in KwaZulu. At the time, a restaurant run by members of an Indian caste known as Banias (hence the name) served them to workers.
Try it here: With its large Indian population, Durban produces the best ‘bunnies’ in South Africa. Check out CaneCutters.
This Dutch-inspired dish translates as ‘small-pot food’, and is slow-cooked over an open fire in the great outdoors. It started out as a ‘frontier stew’ with wild game and vegetables — and generous dollops of cheap and cheerful sherry. Oxtail potjies are a firm modern favourite. They become the focal point of any gathering, drawing rapturous ‘oohs’ whenever the lid is lifted for stirring — it’s not uncommon for devious guests to slip extra booze in while the chef is looking the other way.
Try it here: Moyo in Jo’burg’s Marble Arch does a oxtail potjie with all the trimmings.
The quintessential South African dining experience is a ‘braai’ (barbecue). Known in Zulu as shisa nyama (fire meat), a braai is almost always a social event presided over by the braaimaster. The meat is cooked over hot coals — gas barbecues are poor substitutes — then eaten with pap (a stiff maize meal porridge), spicy chakalaka relish and freeflowing ice-cold beers.
Try it here: A successful fast-food franchise, Chesa Nyama, provides quick fixes for those who want braai there and then.
Translating as ‘farmer's sausage’, boerewors is as South African as biltong and blue sky. Made from a coarsely minced combination of beef, pork or lamb, it’s generously spiced with coriander, pepper and allspice. The best recipes are hotly contested and a source of fierce pride. It’s best cooked over a braai, and served with pap and vegetables.
Try it here: Boerewors rolls or ‘boeries’ are like hot dogs but better, and available from street carts in most cities. Make sure to try it with grilled onions and chakalaka.
South Africa’s wines are rightly world-famous. The verdurous Winelands in the Western Cape are the perfect place to the country’s signature pinotage vintages.
The tea that conquered the world, rooibos has a wonderfully sweet, earthy flavour and is often enjoyed with lemon and honey.
This famous South African liqueur is made from marula fruits and is very popular across the nation. It’s creamy and sweet, usually had as a dessert tipple — as well as an ingredient in delicious cocktails.
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