South Africa offers a unique proposition for the culinary tourist
Lonely Planet recently announced its top 30 destinations to visit in 2023 – and South Africa features in the top five as a destination in which to experience memorable and diverse cuisine. In addition to the historical influences, the country has attracted top chef talent, and many of these gifted professionals are on foodies’ bucket lists the world over. In addition to the ‘celebrity chefs’, each province in the country has certain foods for which it is known, making it an exciting destination if you’re on a culinary journey across SA.
Cape of good taste
The Eastern Cape is the land of dairy farms, angora goats, oranges and prickly pears. It is also considered the home of the Xhosa people, whose traditional foods include beef and lamb or mutton (using every part of the cow and sheep, including the tripe and trotters), umphokoqo (African ‘salad’), umqa (a stiff maize-meal porridge), and vegetables including mielies, leafy green vegetables like spinach and beetroot, as well as pumpkin, potatoes, cabbages and corn. Some restaurants that serve traditional SA food in the Eastern Cape include Phaka Restaurant in Gqeberha and Molo Lolo Restaurant & Cooking School in Addo. The Northern Cape and Western Cape hug the Atlantic Ocean, making them destinations rich in delicious fresh seafood, from yellowfin tuna to snoek and crayfish, rich mussel and haddock soup, and freshly-caught linefish and shellfish. Both provinces also have a strong Cape Malay influence, so they are culinary hotspots for spicy bredies, curries, boboties, stuffed cabbage leaves and sosaties. Influences include Cape Malay, Indian and Dutch cuisine, and you can sample traditional mixed-heritage foods at Velskoendraai Farmers Market & Restaurant for bredies and tastings of the unique rooibos tea grown in the area. Muisbosskerm on the west coast offers a unique seafood experience.
The east coast is where you’ll find KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), which is bordered by the warm Indian Ocean. Pulling from traditional Zulu culinary influences, you’ll find interesting delicacies such as mogodu (tripe), amadumbi (Zulu potatoes), ‘walkie-talkies’ (boiled chicken feet) and mieliepap. KZN is also known for its sugar cane fields, banana plantations and great seafood. Indian influences are also strong, detectable in spicy hot curries and ‘bunny chow’ – the latter being a unique dish developed in the area by early Indian residents. Great places to grab a bunny chow are Curry Os at Point Waterfront or Cane Cutters in a hidden upper corner of Umhlanga. And if you’re heading down the Zulu culinary influence route, try Afro’s Chicken Shop or The Joint Jazz Cafe in Durban.
Travelling from the west to the east coast, you enter the multicultural Gauteng province, which is a focus for multiple surrounding provinces and their foodie influences. From Zulu, Xhosa and Indian to Sotho, Dutch and Malay flavours, foodie travellers can experience the tastes of umleqwa (chicken stew), pap, samosas, boerewors and mogodu with ting (a tripe stew paired with fermented sorghum porridge). Get your fill of traditional Gauteng flavours at places like ThePlace2B in Lanseria and Imbizo Shisanyama in Midrand Mall.