South African Cuisine

South African Cuisine is probably
the most cosmopolitan on our planet.
When it comes to recipes and cuisine
they are as diverse as South Africas
eleven different official languages.

Surely just the fact that South Africa has
eleven official languages, as well as many more in
everyday usage which haven't attained official status,
is enough to establish its broad cultural diversity...

South Africa has a tremendously wide cultural heritage, which brings with it different eating habits, different diets, different tastes, different recipes, different cuisines.
I suppose one has to start with the different
ethnic groups which make up this vast land.

South Africa has been referred to as the Rainbow Nation, in part because of its cultural diversity but also in part because of its enormous potential. It is the manifestation
of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so to speak.

South African Cuisine, as expressed by South African Recipes, is part of that rainbow and part of that pot of Gold. An added bonus is the fact that you can drink
the water. True South African Recipes or Cuisine
blend together separate ingredients, namely
culture and heritage as well as an interesting history,
combining them to make a pleasingly tasty whole.

Any discussion regarding South African Recipes and Cuisine has to start somewhere, so let's start at the
beginning in so far as it is known...

When the Dutch arrived in the Cape in 1652, they found an area that was extremely sparsely-populated. Some of the people who were already there included the Strandlopers (Beach Walkers), whose recipes would have included boiled and roasted crayfish (Clawless rock lobster), boiled and raw mussels and Abalone. These meats would have been accompanied by roots, fruits and edible seaweed.

Close relatives to the Strandlopers, are the Khoi, who lived on the coastal plain as semi-nomadic herdsmen. They kept sheep and cattle and one of their favorite recipes, which has survived to this day as a truly original South African Recipe, was "Kaiings", the fat from a sheep's tail fried with wild cabbage.

There were also the San, hunters whose recipes would have included venison, elephant and hippo, together with wild plants, sorrel, mustard leaves, and waterblommetjies (water lilies). The Khoi-San, remnants of these people, live in the Kalahari Desert, still relatively free from the unnecessary trappings of civilization. The need for food began the colonization of South Africa.

The Dutch East India Company needed a re-provisioning station to supply the ships bound for Malaysia with fresh foods after their long trips. Jan van Riebeeck landed in the Cape in 1652 with orders to establish a farm in order to provide fresh vegetables and meat for the ships rounding the Cape. For labor, the Dutch imported slaves from Sumatra. These slaves became known as Cape Malays and brought their traditions, spices and recipes with them. In this way, South African Cuisine started building up its vast, differentiated library of South African Recipes.

Then the French arrived, protestant Huguenot refugees fleeing from persecution. They brought vines with them and transformed forever the agriculture of the Cape. French Recipes blended with Dutch and Cape Malay and became South African Recipes. These recipes retained some of the French influence but developed into purely South African Recipes.

All this time, the Xhosa were moving steadily Southwards towards the Cape while the Zulu occupied the area now known as KwaZulu Natal.

They were followed by the Sotho, Venda and Tswana. Each people brought with them different tastes and recipes. South African Cuisine was set for the amalgamation of traditional African with dour Dutch, light French and spicy Malay foods, to once again change the face of South African Cuisine with new South African Recipes. But Wait! More was yet to be added to the South African Recipe scenario...

In the 1820s, waves of British settlers arrived, bringing with them their "beef and two boiled vegegetable" dishes, as well as their puddings. Later, the British established sugar cane plantations in Natal.

Indians were brought to South Africa as indentured servants on ten-year contracts to provide labourers for the plantations. After the contracts were up, the Indians stayed and both Hindu and Muslim people added their individual dishes to the South African Recipe scene. Together with their spices and curries, these dishes now form a prominent segment of any book purporting to be a South African recipe book.

All these tastes, textures and ingredients,
and we haven't even mentioned the German immigrants who,
together with the Dutch and French, formed what is now known as the Afrikaner people. The Germans added
their "farmers sausage" or boerewors; a sausage
which has spawned so many secret family recipes
that you could write a book about them.

So many immigrating peoples contributed to South African Cuisine. The Portuguese added their peri-peri and prawns,
the Greeks their pitas and the Italians their pizza and pasta...
All these combine to make the collection of
South African Recipes that form
South African Cuisine.

South African Cuisine has evolved from the marriage of many different palates, people and lifestyles. Many of the more spicy and dry cured meats and fish were formulated due to the lack of refrigeration, and long months on the trek to the hinterland. It is interesting to note that not one single traditional recipe has been found for processing poultry; only latter day enthusiasts have dried and cured poultry using modern presrvatives and additives. The abundance of wildfowl, ducks and the ease of taking domestic fowl on the treks probably accounts for this.

The Cuisine Evolved From
The Following People:


The San People (Bushmen)




Many indigenous tribes - Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana





  French (Hugenot)

Belgian (Flemish)

  English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish
  Sri Lankan (previously Ceylonese)

Some 1500 Recipes Are Recorded,
But Only About Sixty-Five
Are Now Regularly Used.
A Few Of These Are:

Koeksisters (Afrikaner)

  Perlemoen (Chinese and Malay)
  Aiow Sauce (Flemish)
  Alikreukel Curried (Indian)
  Barbecued Pig (Malay)
  Biltong - dried, spiced and cured beef (Afrikaner)
  Hertzog Cookies (a true marriage of nations)
  Ouma's Spice Biscuits
  Bobotie (Malay, Indian, Dutch)
  Boerewors - spicy, coarse ground, thick barbecue sausage (Afrikaner)
  Dry Wors - dry-cured, spicy, thin sausage (Afrikaner)

Café Brandy Pudding (Dutch)


Blaauwkrantz Ring (Afrikaner)


Chicken Curry - very distinctive, very different - a marriage of cultures.


Sosaties - lamb pieces on a skewer (Malay)


Crayfish - buttered or curried


Sous Brontjies (Afrikaner)


Curried Green Beans (Afrikaner)


Escargots (Portuguese)


Snoek - dried, curried, smoked, paté, gesmoorde


Sous Kluitjies - sweet rice(Indian, Malay and Chinese)


Guinea Fowl in Cast Iron Pot (Afrikaner, Hottentot)


Jambalaya - made with Frankfurters (Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana)


Ratatouille - South African way


Kesakeitto - Finnish, South African


Pork with Fruit Kebabs - Chinese, Malay


Mutton Curry - the Cape Malay way


Succotash - Afrikaner


Game Pie - South African


Water Melon Konfyt - Afrikaner