5 South African Dishes to Try Before You DieNatasha Jebens
Boring people eat to live. But true foodies? We live to eat.
If you’re the type of person who organizes vacations around dinner reservations you probably already have a growing bucket list of dishes you’re dying to try. If South African cuisine hasn’t made it onto that checklist yet, we’re betting it’s about to.
Of course, you don’t have to jet across the world to indulge in a new cuisine—African Dream Food’s hot sauces and spices can bring authentic African flavor straight to your table. If you ever have the chance, though, that trip is worth it.
So make some room on your bucket list; here’s our roundup of mind-blowing South African dishes you can’t die without trying.
It would be a total crime against food to discuss to-die-for South African cuisine without spotlighting potjiekos, a stew-like dish cooked traditionally over an open fire.
Translated literally to “small-pot food,” potjiekos (known locally as “potjie”) has all the markings of a stew with one essential twist: unlike stew, potjie is rarely stirred. Stirring mixes a stew’s ingredients, creating a more muddled flavor profile. Potjie’s cooking method, on the other hand, brings out each ingredient’s individual flavor with a distinctive depth. The result? A rich, warming dish with an unbelievable range of vibrant flavor.
While potjie recipes vary greatly from one chef to the next, traditional iterations often include oxtail, a medley of fresh vegetables and potato. If you have the chance, it’s best to enjoy this one in its customary context: with a few good friends and a long fireside chat.
2. A Traditional Braai
Nothing is more South African than traditional braai. If you’re a local, braai is a summertime staple. If you’re visiting from afar, it’s food you can’t leave
without trying (seriously, rumor has it they won’t let you through airport security until you’ve given proof—don’t even risk it).
The term “braai” technically describes a method of outdoor cooking most would classify as barbecue (we’re talking wide varieties of meats grilled slowly over open flames). But let’s be real: describing authentic braai as “barbecue” is a lot like calling the Mona Lisa a “picture.” I mean, it technically is, but we can’t insult da Vinci like that.
For South Africans, authentic braai is more of an elevated artform than it is a cooking method. Some braai masters spend decades perfecting their technique—and trust us—it shows.
Of course, if you can’t hop a flight to Cape Town this summer you still have the option to bring the spirit of authentic South African braai to your own table with ADF’s Southern Braai sauce.
3. Chakalaka and Pap
No tour of South African cuisine is complete without traditional braai, and a braai isn’t a braai without chakalaka. Locals will probably describe it as a delectably spicy tomato sauce, though terms like “tomato relish” and even “bean slaw” could fit the bill, too.
As far as ingredients go, we’re talking carrots, bell peppers, onions, garlic, baked beans, tomatoes, and plenty of spice. If you’re making this one at home, add a dash of ADF’s Smoked Chipotle Salt to really bring out the heat and flavor.
Though technically a side dish, chakalaka steals the show in a wide range of traditional dishes. Hop a flight to Johannesburg and you’ll see locals heaping it on everything from grilled meats and breads to stews and curries. For the most authentic experience, you’ll want to sample this one on pap, a traditional porridge made from coarsely ground maize.
4. Bunny Chow
Don’t let the name fool you, no bunnies are harmed in the making of this delicious Cape Malay curry. Referred to by locals merely as “bunny,” traditional bunny chow boasts an aromatic mix of spices such as star anise, curry powder, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and fennel seeds. The distinctive twist? Bunny chow is served in a hollowed-out bread loaf—no dish required.
Bunny is unmistakably Indian, but you’ll only find it in South Africa. The dish originated in Durban, a South African city boasting the world’s largest Indian population outside of India.
Give it a go with a fork and knife if you absolutely must, but bunny is best when you enjoy it like a local and dig in with your hands. Traditional bunny chow packs a little heat, but those wishing to go all-in on the spice factor will want to top this dish with a dash of ADF’s Bird’s Eye Chilli Sauce.
Get the recipe here!
If you’ve ever thought you had to choose between savory and sweet, bobotie is a dish that’s dying to prove you wrong. This one’s best described as a
curried mince. When it comes to the flavor profile, imagine a fragrant and hearty mix of ground beef, onion, turmeric and herbs topped with a delectable golden custard.
If you’re playing by the book, you’ll want to sample a bobotie with dried fruits (such as raisins or sultanas). If that’s not your jam, though, adding a little chutney (or ADF Sweet Dream Sauce) makes the perfect substitute.
Get the recipe here!