Taste SA's delicious heritage in 5 authentic dishes

2017-08-20 09:46 - Unathi Nkanjeni, Gabi Ziestman, Ishani Chetty
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Cape Town - Heritage Month is approaching and what better way to celebrate it then by eating a delicious, truly South African meal.

The wafting flavors are just the thing to make you feel proud to be South African. With the weather making its way to warmer days and cool, enjoyable evenings - it is the perfect excuse to get the family together to celebrate SA's diverse hertiage. 

A beautiful view of South Africa WATCH: Tourist captures all of SA's diversity in 'mind blowing video'

South Africa is made up of many different cultures, traditions and religions - although there is a wide array of diversity, one thing brings us together and that is our local and lekker Heritage. As our beautiful country annually attracts millions of tourists, some 10 million from all over the world in 2016 you thought this a special enough place to spend their dollars and pound on - that alone should make you feel proud. 

In honour of our diverse cultures, Traveller24 has compiled a mouth-watering array of South African dishes - to add a tasty layer of understanding to what it means to be South African.

Eat your heart out this Heritage Day!

 5 Lekker South African Meals  

1. Roosterkoek

Heritage Day has also been dubbed ‘Braai Day’, one of the most typically South African past times where the roar of an open fire with sizzling meat signifies a happy get together or camping trip.

Tjop, wors, a bubbling potjie, pap and a nice cold beer are an important part to any braai - but another classic South African braai addition is the scrumptious ‘roosterkoek’.

A simple dough recipe baked on a grill, or ‘rooster’, over an open fire makes for a modest but filling meal. Eaten with butter and syrup, chakalaka or serving it up as a bun for your wors. This easy-to-make dish was perfected by the nomadic Khoisan groups like the Nama, who also call it ‘askoek’.

(Photo: iStock)

It forms a big part of their food culture, as spoken about by Vera Engelbrecht from Leliefontein in this Beautiful News feature.

Engelbrecht hopes to keep her Nama culture alive by sharing their traditional cuisine with visitors who come to stay in her matjieshuts, shelters made by reeds sourced in the local bush.

“I wanna bring back the Nama culture,” Engelbrecht tells Beautiful News. If you want to help share her village’s rich history, throw these ingredients together. Knead the dough and let it stand until it doubles in size. Finally braai it over the coals until there’s a hollow sound when you tap the brown roosterkoek.


    1 kg white bread flour

    7 ml sugar

    2 ml salt

    10 g instant yeast

    500 ml lukewarm water

    15 ml melted butter or margarine

Combine the flour, sugar and salt and sprinkle the instant yeast on top. Add just enough lukewarm water to form a stiff dough.

Knead the dough until it is elastic and no longer sticks to your hands. Brush the dough with melted butter or margarine and cover. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Knead down and shape into small balls. Flatten the balls slightly and sprinkle with a little flour. Cook over a slow fire until done.

2. Cape Malay Briyani 

The aromatic tastes of a delcious and spicy Briyani are all too familiar to South Africans. The Briyani is a traditional meal in many cultures across South Africa, inlcusive of the Cape Malay and Indian communities.

The Cape Malay Briyani is a dish that will leave you full and also proud to be South African - as the Cape Malay traditions have played a major role in shaping the beautiful Cape Town. This meal signifies the mood of Sunday family lunches and provides a wholesome feeling.

The specific Cape Malay spice create an undeniable aroma - the heritage of these spices dates back to the colonialism of South Africa and the trading for spices originating from the China and India in the East. 

                                                                      Istock Photograph

Renowned Chef Fatima Sydow is known for her Cape Malay cooking and is author of 'The Journey of Cape Malay Cooking'. Sydow shares her childhood recipes and the essence of the Cape in her meals.

It is a filling dish that can feed many mouths. Sydow previously states about her cultured, "We are not just Cape Malay, we are South Africans. We are Capetonians. We love our city, we love our country and celebrate everything about it and cook all kinds of food". 

The difference between Briyani and Akin can be understood here. 

If you want to share in the vision of Sydow to celebrate all South African meals why not give the Cape Malay Briyani recipe a try and your loved ones will also be thanking you.

Place some hot water on the stove to let your rice soak and enjoy the spices that waft through the kitchen, add a source of protein of your choice - from chicken to mutton anything goes. Prepare sambal to enjoy the delicious meal with - offering a refreshing enhancement of the spicy flavors as you enjoy the meal. 


   20 pieces of cleaned chicken.

   500 grams of white basmati rice.

   2 onions finely chopped.

   8 cloves of garlic peeled and grated on the fine side of grater.

   1 big chunk of fresh ginger 2 tablespoons, peeled and grated on fine side of grater.  

   6-8 potatoes cut into cubes.4 tablespoons of Briyani masala. 1 tablespoon of Gharam masala.

   1 tablespoon of turmeric.

   1 tablespoon of salt. oil for frying the potatoes. Fresh coriander.

   A few cubes of butter.

   1 cup of cooked lentils.      


Deep fry the cubed potatoes in oil and put aside when done. Soak the Basmati rice in hot water for 10 minutes, strain and replace with fresh hot water. Add the salt and some tumeric (optional). Boil the rice for 10 minutes, strain and leave to one side.

Fry the chicken pieces and onions until golden brown. Add the garlic and ginger - then add all the spices and salt. Braise this mixture for about 5 minutes, ensure that you stir the pot. Then add a cup of hot water and cook on a medium heat until the chick is tender. Soak the lentils in hot water for 5 - 10minutes. Then add the rice, coriander, lentils and potatoes to the chicken braise. Cook all the ingredients in one pot on a medium to low heat. Let the pot stand off the heat and serve after 10 minutes.

READ: Food for thought: Why is Africa not the best foodie destination on the globe?

3. Ulusu - Mogodo, Tripe

Forget fast foods and gourmet things you've been lucky enough to taste whilst travelling. A favourite heritage meal to try would be Ulusu with idombolo and a glass of ice cold drink.

What is Ulusu? In isiSotho and Tshwane is referred to as “Mogodo” and in plain English, it's tripe. - yes, tripe!

There are many kinds of tripe like sheep, lamb and ox trip, but I prefer sheep and lamb tripe as it is soft and finely textured rather than ox trip. 

Before you frown, say “eeeeeuuuw" or shake your head at the idea of tripe, you must know that tripe is eaten on every continent and by nearly every culture.  

Just like how goat meat is consumed by 70% of the world yet people seem to look down on it, the same thing happens with tripe. If you haven’t had it as a dish on its own then high chances you’ve eaten it without realising it in your sausages, processed meat and burgers.

                                                                            Istock Photograph

For those who originate from the Eastern Cape - this may not come as a suprise due to the slaughtering that is done throughout the year for rituals and gatherings.

In the Eastern Cape it is a local dish that is enjoyed by many members of the communuites forming part of tradition and culture.

Although it is cooked differently according to preference and culture, trip does require time and a little bit of TLC to transform into a state -of - art delicious meal.

If you want to try out this heritage delicious meal here is a step by step method to preparing trip:


1kg cleaned sheep tripe
3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon salt
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, grated
1 small piece fresh ginger, grated
1.5L boiling water
1 oxtail cube
2 potatoes, peeled and quartered
5ml (1tsp) salt
1 green chilli, chopped
Green beans, a handful


Clean the tripe thoroughly under running water and use your kitchen scissors to cut it into cubes. In a big saucepan cook the tripe at low heat first in 500ml water, add the garlic, ginger and oxtail cube. Add the rest of the water with stock cube dissolved in it; onion, green beans and chilli then continue cooking until the tripe is soft.Add the potatoes towards the end of the cooking process.  Also, add salt. Serve with dumplings or steam bread.

4. Sourtribbetjie

No matter where in the world you are from, food will always have a way of guiding you on a stroll down memory lane and in celebration of heritage month, travel journalist and homegrown Karoo farmgirl Louzel Lombard-Steyn shares some of her best SA's heritage dishes.

Lombard-Steyn's passion for South Africa's untamed heritage dishes is rooted in her childhood where she was born and bred on the Karoo in the Eastern Cape. As she grew up, so too did her appetite for good, wholesome, down-to-earth food. She describes her favourite dishes as something "just like home", as cooking is something she thoroughly enjoys when she is at home with her family. 

"Most of the time, all of the ingredients are also reared and raised and grown right on the farms in the Karoo, so you get a taste of the environment quite literally," says Lombard-Steyn.

Istock Photograph

Out of all the dishes Lombard-Steyn grew up with like mfino, samp and beans, pampoenkoekies and melktert, she says her favourite dish has to be a Soutribbetjie. It is a traditional Karoo classic of lamb rib on the fire.

"That specific Karoo lamb taste we all crave - you just don't get it anywhere else in the world. That's what eating should be - an internalization of a destination," she says. 

First things first, you need to get your hands on some good ribs portion. If you're in the Karoo this shouldn't be a problem. If you're in the city it might be more difficult, so chat to your butcher and order them in advance.


2 kg rack of lamb rib, whole
2 teaspoon (30ml) brown sugar
1 cup (250ml) coarse or kosher salt
1 teaspoon (5ml) saltpetre (ask at the chemist)
1 teaspoon (5ml) ground black pepper
2 teaspoon (30ml) coriander seeds
1 teaspoon (5ml) ground cloves


Toast the coriander seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until lightly golden and smelling aromatic. Let cool completely and grind finely with the salt, sugar, saltpetre and cloves. Rub thoroughly into the ribs and place meat in an airtight container. Leave in the fridge for 3 days, turning twice a day and pouring off any juices that collect in the container. On the third day, remove ribs from container and hang with a meat hook somewhere airy and dry or leave on a cooling rack to dry out completely. To cook, place ribs in a large pot and just cover with water. Simmer gently until meat is tender – about 2 hours. Top up with more water when necessary, just enough to cover the ribs. Drain, dry, season well and grill over coals until crispy and done.

Braaing The Sourtribbetjie

Rinse off the ribbetjie in cold running water. ¾ fill a large pot with cold water, add the ribbetjie making sure it is fully covered with the water. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce the heat and boil slowly for 2 to 2¼ hours. Decant the resulting salt water and pat the ribbetjie dry with a paper kitchen towel or, as in the old days, a piece of flannel cloth. Use the time you take to boil the soutribbetjie to make the fire for your braai. You should braai the ribbetjie in a grid high above the coals (not being licked by flames). Since it will take some time ensure you have a fire going alongside to be able to replenish the coals when necessary. The Soutribbetjie is ready when the fat is crispy and the meat is somewhat well done, if you use saltpetre the mutton will turn pink during cooking.

5. Pampoenkoekies

Pampoenkoekies, or pumpkin fritters - hits that sweet spot between being part of the main meal and as a dessert. The best ones normally come from your Ouma’s kitchen drenched in a caramel sauce or sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

Many who grew up on a farm will remember the smell of pumpkin coming from the kitchen when your grandpa came home with a big pumpkin. You would eagerly await for those delicious cinnamon rounds to be devoured before dinner - much to your mother’s dismay.

                                                               Istock Photograph

Pumpkin is quite a resilient crop in South Africa, is indigenous to our country, and we tend to put them on our roofs when the wind is howling rather than cut them up into scary faces like the Americans on Halloween.  No one is entirely sure where it comes from but this classic South African dish pops in both Cape Malay and Afrikaans kitchens. Almost every local chef has their own spin on the traditional recipe, claiming theirs is the best - but we all know it’s Ouma’s.

Spin-offs recipes include using butternut, sweet potato and even normal potato - but the pumkin will alwasy reign supreme. Food24 has a delicious pampoenkoekie recipe with a twist. For a healthier option switch out the syrup and sprinkle a good dose of cinnamon on.


  300 grams cooked pumpkin (well drained)

  120 grams cake flour

  5 ml baking powder

  1ml salt 

  1 large egg, beaten 

  Sunflower oil (for shallow frying)

  Blue cheese (to serve with - optional)


  125 ml sugar 

  2 fresh rosemary sticks

  2 fresh thyme sprigs


Syrup - 

Heat 140 ml of water with sugar and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat to let it simmer and add the springs of herbs. Simmer for 5 minutes, take off the heat and set aside for an hour to infuse the strain and discard the herbs. 


Mix all the ingredients together - then heat a non-stick frying pan with oil to fry the fritters in. Place the fritter mixture in the oil and fry until it is golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Drain the fritters on an absorbent paper towel sheet. 

For an extra kick of flavor serve with blue cheese and drizzle syrup over.

With all these leaker and local dishes to dive into - what will you be making this up coming heritage month? Let us know?

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