Eat like a South African

If you want to know what South African food is like, it’s easier to jump on a plane for Johannesburg than to track it down in the U.S.

The population of South Africans in the United States numbers in just the tens of thousands. With barely a handful of markets and restaurants catering to the homesick expats, the foods are unfamiliar to most Americans.

It’s a true polyglot cuisine. There are a few enduring, indigenous dishes, but most South African cooking reflects the contributions of settlers from Portugal, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Germany, France, India, and the U.K. As soccer fever engulfs the planet, let’s take a look at some popular dishes of the World Cup’s host nation.

Bobotie is like a sweetish meatloaf with raisins and other dried fruits topped with baked eggs. It is served with yellow rice and garnished with bananas, walnuts, and chutney.

Koeksisters are South African doughnuts: deep-fried twists of dough that are drenched in a sweet, sticky sugar syrup.

Biltong is a dried and salted meat snack usually made with beef, ostrich, or kudu antelope. It is so much more than our beef jerky, chopped and added to muffins, used as a flavoring for potato chip, and doubling as a teething aid for babies.

Prepared sheep heads are as ubiquitous as our roasted chicken, available as a takeout food at supermarkets, delis, and street corner stalls. Shaved, seasoned with little more than salt, then roasted, as the meat shrinks the lips pull back in a grin, giving them the common nickname of smileys. The ears are everyone’s favorite.

Boerewors is practically the national dish of South Africa. Basically a sausage of spiced, coarsely minced beef, you’ll find them at every street stand, farmers market, and sporting event. The smell of boerewors grilling over charcoal perfumes the air of every gathering, large and small.

It’s not made by Purina and no fluffy creatures are harmed in making the dish. Bunny Chow consists of a quarter, half, or full loaf of bread with its center removed and filled with your choice of curry.  Typical fillings include mutton or lamb, chicken, or beans. The ultimate street food, it is eaten out of hand and will elicit smirks from the locals if you use a fork.

If you have little interest in the action on the field, here are some non-FIFA World Cup alternatives:

The bloggers at Black and Gold Tchotchkes are holding a Friday Football Foodie World Cup of Football/Street/National Dishes. A typical stadium food from each participating country will be introduced on the site. Vote for your favorite team cuisine during each round of play.

Over at Endless Simmer, they have rated each country’s most iconic dish to create the 2010 World Cup Food and Drink Rankings.

Even ESPN is getting in on the action with their Match Trucks. Circulating throughout New York and Los Angeles, these food trucks are outfitted with rooftop big screens streaming the sporting action live in HD while serving up a menu of street food inspired by the countries playing in the World Cup.

Discover more about this diverse cuisine with the sites listed in the  South African Food and Wine Blog Directory.


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11 Responses to Eat like a South African

  1. Rose says:

    that sheep head is yummy jokes

  2. Rose says:

    Hello that sheep head look so yummy (NOT)

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  4. I am inspired by the South African style sheep head. It looks delicious and I can guess it has a perfect mixture of meat to fat. Would love to eat a whole sheep head of my own sometime in South Africa!

  5. Hello thank you for the entry.

  6. Janice says:

    Re. the sheep head– is it the smile?

  7. What a interesting post! I am always facinated by what all of the different cultures eat. I have to agree with Rick on the sheeps head.

  8. Monet says:

    What a great and informative post. I traveled to South Africa several years ago, and it was fun to think back to some of the cuisine I experienced.

  9. Excellent post…So interesting the difference and sometimes the similarities between foods and cultures.

  10. We’ve compiled a list of restaurants from every country participating in this years games. Since we live in Houston, TX, this was actually possible. We have a few South African restaurants.

    Since it is not possible for most people to eat out at every place, we’re also posting menus that integrate the cuisines of each country for various matches. Our South African and Mexican fusion menu is now up!

  11. Rick says:

    The sheep’s head traumatized me.

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