The best part of travel is trying a country’s traditional foods. Apart from the new flavors you get to experience, getting acquainted with a new cuisine tells you a lot about the culture of the country and brings people from all walks of life together. Better save listing the benefits for another article. Today, however, we’ll start by introducing the top 5 traditional dishes to try when in South Africa. All based on popularity and reviews. So, Bon Appetit!


1. Braai/Shisa Nyama

Sisha Nyama

A must-try authentic dish for those seeking to have a real taste of South Africa. Quite self-explanatory, the name literally translates to ‘burn the meat’ in Zulu which obviously makes it a meat dish and not so thrilling for vegetarians. It originated when local butchers used to grill meats outside their shops at weekends to sell them later on the streets. Now, friends, family, and even strangers gather to grill their meats in the open air in a joyous atmosphere. Bear in mind though that South Africans love their braais and take great pride them. Never call a braai a barbeque or you’ll be in big trouble 🙂 If you’re asking where you could try the dish, you’ll be glad to know braais take place everywhere; at any time of the day which makes them almost impossible to miss.


2. Gatsby (Yes, you read it right)


Named after F. Scott’s hero in the novel “The Great Gatsby”, this sandwich truly takes after Gatsby in so many ways. Gatsby wants to own everything in life and so is this legendary sandwich. At a foot long, it seems like it could be filled with anything and everything you could imagine. But it’s meant for sharing which makes a good reason to fill it till it bursts. Being a street food, you may treat yourself with the fillings of your choice. The standard items you’ll find at all vendors is hot French fries or French fries with vinegar along with pickles and chili peppers. Egg could be added as well, in addition to a large variety of meat ingredients to choose from like Russian or Vienna sausage, grilled or masala steak, fresh or pickled fish, calamari, and chicken.

Such a savory meal that you may try at any Cape Town corner store or street vendor!


3. Umphokoqo (African Salad)


A South African side dish; often referred to as African salad. Though not your typical salad in which you’ll find colored and green leafy veggies, South Africans consider it a salad dish, so salad it is. Famous as one of Mandela’s favorite dishes, you’ll simply feel like trying it just for its sentimental value. It is composed of maize meal, black pepper, and buttermilk boiled and simmered and usually served with amasi (sour milk). A very heartwarming, light, and crumbly dish that you’ll enjoy its taste and nutritional value as well. No wonder Mandela asked for the dish when he was in London and feeling sick of hotel fancy food that his assistant managed to bring him one wrapped like a birthday gift. Yup, it’s deliciously worth the trouble.


4. Koeksisters


Cape Malay Koeksisters

Trying one South African dessert won’t satisfy the sweet-toothed. That’s why we thought of bringing you a few. For koeksisters, the form and ingredients differ according to where you are in the country. The braided-shaped dough is deep fried and soaked in syrup which is the regular Afrikaans version.  As for the Cape Malay’s, it’s more like a donut; ball-shaped, spiced with ginger, cinnamon, and aniseed, cooked in syrup and sprinkled with coconut shreds.

If you happen to stay in Bo-Kaap or Salt River, you may join the children every Sunday morning knocking on their nearest aunties’ doors to have their bowls filled with Cape Malay koeksisters! How sweet is that? 🙂

For a nice outing in nature and delicious meals, visit the Company’s Garden Restaurant.


5. Melktert (Milk Tart)


If you’re not a fan of fried pastries and are more into baked goodies, nibbling on this South African traditional dessert in tea-time will do it for you. Originally introduced by Dutch dairy farmers, the ingredients though very simple, are very yummy. Melktert consists of a pastry case filled with a pale and smooth filling of custard and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon for a topping. Creaminess and richness combined!


Do you have a favorite? Share with us what it is in the comments.

Click here, if you’re looking for short-term accommodations in  South Africa.