One of the things I love about tasting new foods when I travel is it seems to be the only thing left on earth that is reserved for experiencing in it’s native county. Sure, in this global economy we can have just about anything shipped from door-to-door, but not everything. I might be able to find a few South African wines at a local store, but certainly not biltong or springbok. I might be able to bring home a recipe for an egg custard milk tart to make at home, but it won’t taste the quite the same without the exact ingredients and local cooking nuances.
In order to truly experience a country, you’ve got to taste it.
So, if you’re planning a trip to South Africa, I’m sure you’ve heard of the “Big 5” animals to look for while on safari. Well, these are my “Big 5” foods for you to taste.
1. Biltong: What prosciutto is to Italy, biltong is to South Africa. You may hear it described as a sort of beef or game jerky. But I can assure you it is much, much better. It’s softer to chew (perhaps more fresh?) and definitely more flavorful. While I might compare regular jerky to gnawing on tough leather, biltong is like having a juicy steak in your back pocket ready for consumption. It packs a punch of umami and leaves you craving more. A regular picnic staple for going out on safari, biltong is usually accompanied with dried apricots, roasted nuts, and a “sun downer” which, for me, was a fine gin and tonic.
2. Franschhoek Wines: If you love wine, and have dreamed of the lands where bountiful vineyards sweep across a lush green valley surrounded by mountains, you’ve dreamed of Franschhoek. Their French history has influenced their wine making, producing some exquisite full-flavored wines. Just one look at the majestic panoramic landscape will leave your jaw hanging and your heart hoping that you’ll never leave. The great thing is, there are some fantastic places to stay and immerse yourself in this wine-lover’s enchanted garden. I recommend taking a look at Le Quartier Francais, Vrede en Lust, and Delaire Graff Estate when making plans for your accommodations and dinner.
3. Bunny Chow: This is not what it sounds like. There are no bunnies in bunny chow and it’s not animal feed that you’d pick up at a farm store. This is pure comfort food. A rich Malay chicken or lamb curry with chunks of carrots and potatoes drenched in a delicious blend of spices. The best part is that it’s traditionally served in a hallowed out loaf of bread that soaks up all the flavorful sauce.
4. Game Meats and Braai: If you’re a steak-lover, then you have to try some of South Africa’s game meats such as kudu, springbok, and ostrich. And the best way to taste them is at a braai, a traditional South African barbecue. Don’t be afraid. This won’t be like an episode of Bizarre Foods, I promise you. Instead, it will be like a great steak-tasting. If you’re a fan of filet minion, try Springbok. It is a sort of antelope that is similar in taste to this tender cut of steak. Kudu is more like dear, with a rich and gamey flavor. Ostrich was probably my favorite as it’s the leanest red meat available. Even though it’s a bird, I assure you, it’s red meat. Order it sliced thin carpaccio style for a great appetizer.
5. Malva Pudding: Saving dessert for last, my one and only sweet on this list doesn’t have a sexy name, but when you taste it I promise your eyes will roll and moans of pleasure will pass your lips. This delicate sponge-like cake is served warm and melts in your mouth like a fine chocolate with hints of butter and vanilla. It’s made with apricot jam, soaked in a caramel-like sauce, and drizzled with a vanilla infused creme anglaise. While having dinner with friends at The Marine in Hermanus, we ordered a malva pudding to share at the end of our meal. Take my advice. Don’t share this dessert. Indulge in one of your own.
Johnnie van der Walt says
I think you nailed it!
Thanks Johnnie! I get hungry just reading this post. 😉
Where was the Dom Pedro?
With Amarula afterward!
What about a Snoek braai?
I loved braai! We had some in Durban. What is snoek? A type of game meat? We had kudu and regular beef.
Snoek is a fish. You can get excellent snoek at Hout Bay in the Cape.
Cliff Neil Frank Rossenrode says
You could probably replace the bunny chow (more a Durban speciality) with our own, Cape Town invention, bobotie…
Rachelle Lucas says
I loved bobotie! I’ll have to see if I have a picture of it. Good suggestion. I’ll add it in!
Moses Reddy says
Kindly note that the Bunny Chow is an Indian curry of lamb or chicken that is filled into a hollowed out unsliced loaf, 1/2 or 1/4 loaf of bread. Its origins are from the Indian community of Durban(THE HOME OF THE BUNNY CHOW), South Africa, and synonymous with the Durban Indian community. It was and still is an easy and quick way of having a take away meal by the Indian community when there was no sit down restaurants. Factually the Malays have nothing to do with the origins of the Bunny Chow, by linking a bunny chow with a Malay curry infers that it is a Malay cuisine. When you visit Durban try out the original BUNNY CHOW.
Editing your write-up will be appreciated.
Cliff Rossenrode says
Yup, Mr Reddy, you are right! The first thing I do when I get in Durbs is to chow a Bunnychow!
Marcelle & George says
This is so cruel ! We are in the miserable weather of winter Europe and make us homesick. We miss our morning rusks most.
Rod Pitter says
Add to that list….,
a boboti, a delicious Cape Malay dish.
Snoek on the braai in foil with filled lots of apricot jam.
A Karoo land stew. Don’t forget to suck the marrow bones clean.
South African rums, world class.
Brains whisky, keeps raking in international awards but in plain language its just ‘ lekker’
Rachelle Lucas says
YESSSSS! Boboti! So much delicious food. Thanks for the suggestions!
Cliff Rossenrode says
then there is snoek pate, koeksisters and the Malay samosas…
Black Label says
It is one of the best write up on top 5 things to taste in South Africa. Do check out this Biltongplus.co.nz, it has some great and nice ideas to look for.