If you're a hotel-staying, private-taxi-riding, pre-booked holiday kind of traveller, this list won't be of any value to you. In fact, it might just put you off travelling to the nooks and crannies of SA and getting to know what it's all about.
If you are, however, someone who travels to a new place and savors every sight and every feeling and every flavour they can find, this menu will be the perfect guide for your next adventure in SA.
While it may be daunting for first time visitors to immerse themselves completely within the numerous foreign South African cultures, you can't be in this amazing country without at least trying
some of the amazing flavours on offer.
There are tame, admittedly interesting options too. Milktart, Melkkos, Malva Pudding and Vetkoek come to mind, but these are easy to love. To test your true love for SA, you need to go the full monty.
Brace yourself, here they are - ranked in degrees of trepidation... 1. Real Koesisters
This traditional Cape Malay dish has been adapted by many SA cultures. The real McCoy Koesister, however, is what you need to taste. The sweet dough is deep-fried, laden with a sweet, spiced syrup and then covered in lightly toasted coconut. Sublime.
Where to find it: In the Bo-Kaap in Cape Town, or at food stalls at public transport stations. 2. 'Moerkoffie'
Think plunger coffee, but better. Old style 'moerkoffie' should ideally be brewed by placing rough ground coffee beans in an enamel coffee kettle and letting it simmer all day - yes, all day - on an open fire or wood-fired stove. The latter is extremely important as it gives the coffee a distinct, deep and dark flavour. Enjoy black, with loads of sugar.
Where to find it: In real old farms' kitchens. 3. Braaied mielies in their leaves
These are a road side classic if you're travelling on the more Eastern side of South Africa. Locals braai them at stop streets on big roads and sell them at ridiculous prices ranging anything between R2 and R5. Buy a hot one, and get a mielie-'facial' as you open the burnt leaves to expose the sweet, steamed kernels inside.
Where to find it: Next to the road driving to Coffee Bay, Port Edward and the EC and KZN surrounds. 4. Mosbolletjies
These fluffy sweet bun-loaves resemble nothing their name, translated directly to 'balls of moss', suggest. The loaves are in fact pre-rusks, that have been intercepted by hungry eaters before the they could have be cut into strips and dried out like with traditional rusks. The yeasty yet sweet loaves, that tear apart easily, are best enjoyed ladened with real butter and 'moskonfyt' - a jam made from grape must.
Where to find it: In small towns' home industry stores.
You'll struggle to find a tastier bread in the world. 'Roosterkoeke' are made by placing fully risen dough squares onto a grill on very hot open coals, and then turning the squares 6 times to expose all sides to the grill. The result is a fluffy large cube of bread with a hard crust marked with grill marks. Add butter and biltong (see below) and you have yourself a king's meal.
Where to find it: At good farm stalls across the countryAlso see: MAP: 53 Fabulous Farmstalls you have to stop at
Mealie meal and mielies are the staple of South African eating. This dish is but one variation of what you can do with mealie meal. It has a dry texture from the mealie meal clotting together and making it appear like very large crumbs. Afrikaans people call it 'krummelpap', and many Free State locals eat it at a braai covered in tomato relish. It is best and traditionally enjoyed at breakfast, however, served with 'dikmelk' (see below).
Where to find it: It's a Xhosa and Zulu dish mainly, so you have to know a friend to make you the real McCoy. Alternatively, some small town restaurants serve it, too. 7. Masala Pineapple
This humble yet mind-blowing snack is made up of only two ingredients, namely (as the name suggests) Masala curry powder smeared over Pineapple and strung on a kebab stick. The hot-sweet combination works better together than 'vinkel en koljander', and has a delightfully refreshing 'zing' to it.
Where to find it: Along the streets of Durban 8. Biltong
Ah, the classic if there ever was one. Biltong is to South Africa what Bratwurst is to Germany. But better. There are different variations of this salty snack made up of salted, herbed dried meat; Many people prefer the naturally fat- and cholesterol-free flavours of the usually more salty venison 'billies', whilst others like slightly underdried beef cuts with a layer of thick, yellow fat surrounding the burgundy-coloured dried meat.
Where to find it: You'll find it in all butcheries, but if you're after the best, buy your packet of biltong in small Karoo town butcheries. 9. Droëwors
A brother to biltong. As with biltong, the meat is wind-dried or cured, but it takes on a completely different shape in that droëwors is dried sausage. As reference, it can be compared to a cured Spanish chorizo, but without the smoked paprika. It's a very well-flavoured, fatty snack and the perfect accompaniment to a proudly South African sporting event.
Where to find it: Where you buy your biltong. 10. Bokkoms
This is SA's West Coast's answer to biltong. And if you're a salty-loving biltong fan, and you like fish, this is IT! Bokkoms are whole mullet fish, or 'harders' as South Africans call them, salted, dried completely in the open air and eaten off the bones. As gross as this may sound to foreigners, it's the tastiest thing on the West Coast (apart from the fresh mussels, of course), and they make great accompaniments to other dishes, much like anchovies do.
Where to find it: Only on the West Coast. Locals and small shops in towns like Paternoster, Saldanha Bay and Jacobsbaai usually sell them. 11. Katkop
Luckily the name, which literally means 'cat's head', is deceitful. A 'katkop' is actually a truly delicious, ridiculously fattening worst nightmare of prof Tim Noakes, consisting of deep-fried 'slap-chips' stuffed into an emptied-out half of a white bread loaf. Other variations include stuffing the bread with crisps, but this would only happen if your resources are limited to prohibit you from obtaining the said, 'slap-chips'. It's best enjoyed very hot, with loads of salt, vinegar and tomato sauce.
Where to find it: Dodge-looking cafés, selling anything from loose cigarettes to giant russians usually make the most disgustingly delicious ones. 12. Curry bunny or Bunny Chow
Another well-known South African delight, ranked at number 12 mainly due to the eh-em, 'full-bodied' nature of the curry used to fill the bread. With a curry bunny, your hot-as-hell curry would fill a vetkoek, whilst with a bunny chow, it'll be stuffed in an emptied-out half of a white bread loaf - like with the 'katkop'. Both bunnies are equally fiery and delicious, and go well with something refreshing like a mango or pineapple lassi.
Where to find it: The best ones are undoubtedly found in Durban. 13. Afval
This dish has been wrongfully cast aside because of its name - afval, meaning 'waste'. And although it's made from the stomach lining and trotters of lamb, it's one of the most flavoursome dishes you'll ever eat and there is certainly nothing 'wasteful' about it. Typically in SA, it's served either curried or stewed as is. If you like oxtail, you'd love afval. The meat is ultra-tender and tasteful, and the trotters give the dish a lovely gelatinous edge. And FYI, the Italians too love this dish - the only difference is that they call it "trippa alla romana", which admittedly sounds much more suitable than 'afval'.
Where to find it: Northern Karoo towns' restaurants serve the best, like for example Wiliston's A Palhota Taverna Restaurant. 14. Amasi or 'Dikmelk'
A unique local treat. Amasi, which is basically fermented, but NOT sour, milk, is believed to make you strong. Although the texture of the liquid might throw you off, the taste is delightful, and when paired with krummelpap, as mentioned before, you'll have yourself a meal made in heaven. Amasi can be bought in any local store, but is certainly best if self-fermented on your window sill.
Where to find it: Any grocery store, but if you can get the real McCoy, go for that. 15. A real Chesa Inyama
All South Africans know what a braai is, however, you haven't had a real Chesa Inyama until you've had it at a roadside stop, or taxi rank, or at Mzoli's. If you're iffi about your meat, choose chicken at the Chesa Inyama, since the cuts of mutton or goat might be rather obscure. And if you have the option of choosing a basting sauce for your meat, choose Jimmies sauce. Delightful.
Where to find it: The are many places. Kayalitsha has a pretty cool Chesa Inyama at their taxi rank, but Mzoli's has become the major establishment. 16. Umqombothi
Although this brew might be difficult to track down, your efforts in finding this home-made beer brewed from maize, sugar and yeast, will be well rewarded with the 'kick' it delivers. Umqombothi is STRONG, and can easily sit a grown man down for at least an hour. It is best enjoyed from a tin, any kind of tin really. Many men drink it from cleaned paint tins, or old pilchards tins, or sometimes, from an old 2L Coca-Cola bottle.
Where to find it: It will be tricky, but if you wander around an informal settlement on a Sunday (preferably over a pay-weekend) you'll strike luck if you ask around. 17. Kaiings
Kaiings are the internal fat of an animal, usually a cow or a sheep, that is fried over a low heat for about half an hour, until all the liquid fat is rendered out and the crispy, crackling-like fats remain. It's a Tim Noakes favourite for those who can stomach it, and it is one of the most delicious, indulgent things you'll ever eat. Best enjoyed warm, on thick slices of freshly baked bread.
Where to find it: You'll have to visit an expert, which can be anything from a farmer's wife to a nomadic hunter. 18. Karoo Oysters
These little treats have various names. They're also known as skilpadjies and 'Lewer-in-Netvet', or liver wrapped in internal fat. It's made from the same fat from which the Kaiings are made, but this time it gets wrapped around small cuts of seasoned liver, and is then braaiied on the coals until the fat is crispy and the liver is cooked. It's usually served from the grill as a starter at a fancy braai.
Where to find it: Good butchers will sell them, but be on the look-out for the kind with minced liver, as these are of a lower quality.
21. Walky Talkies
If you don't mind your food staring you in the face while you eat it, this is your happy meal. The only thing daunting about skaapkop is actually seeing the head of the lamb, but other than that, the meat of this part of the animals is most tender and flavoursome. Skaapkop is baked in the oven for several hours, resulting in perfectly cooked meat that literally fall from the bone.
Where to find it: Again, you'll have to visit someone who is an expert. You'll find many in the Greater Karoo, and along the West Coast, many people love this delicacy too.
20. Mopane worms
The only difference between a mopane worm and a prawn is marketing, and these little crunchies are often mistaken as gross just because of bad PR. Deep fried, they’re very Tim Noakes right now, but granted, they're suited for particular palettes only. The worms need to be seasoned very well if consumed, otherwise they might just taste like soil, which will be disappointing. They work absolutely perfect in salads as a crunchy topping, and can also be enjoyed as is as a snack.
Where to find it: You'll be luckiest in KwaZulu-Natal, around Durban.
Only the bravest of eaters will dare take on a walky talky, which is basically the feet (walky) and head (talky) of a chicken. As daunting as it may sound, this is a super dish. The meat is deep-fried in a batter, resulting in a crunchy dish that tastes of the yummy, fatty parts at the ends of chicken drumstick bones. If you're not fussy and try this treat, THIS is the meal that will stick with you when you think of your visit to South Africa.
Where to find it: at highly selected chicken fast food outlets, mostly in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-NatalPlease share your travel footage and photos with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.