A Fusion of Flavors

2 minute read
SIMON ROBINSON

South African cuisine is as much a mix of influences and flavors as the country’s demographic profile. Begin your culinary tour with the food of the Dutch settlers, who perfected the art of preserving beef during their long trek into the veld. Locals still love to chew on biltong (jerky) or dry wors (preserved sausage), often made from game animals such as kudu or ostrich. And no braai (barbecue) would be complete without generous coils of spicy boerewors (farmer’s sausages).

The importation of indentured servants from Indonesia and Malaysia in the 17th century led to the development of a distinctive Cape Malay cuisine, which mixes European pastries and meats with Asian spices, curries and chutneys. Try bobotie, a tasty casserole of minced beef or lamb, raisins, almonds and curry powder topped with egg custard; or waterblommetjie bredie, a stew made with lamb and the flowers of water lilies. Breyani, made from rice, lentils and lamb or chicken, is another favorite.

Many restaurants also now serve African dishes such as pap or mealie meal (maize-meal porridge) and umngqusho, made of crushed dried maize kernels, sugar beans, butter, onions, potatoes, chilies and lemons. Also good with pap, or with dumplings made from flour and water, is morogo, a type of African spinach eaten in many parts of the continent. For the more adventurous there’s mogodo, a stew of tripe and vegetables.

With 3,600 km of coastline, South Africa boasts fantastic seafood, both fresh (try snoek, a Cape fish often barbecued, or the gigantic Indian Ocean prawns caught off the coast from Durban ) and preserved. Particularly memorable is salt cod, which adds hot chilies to the traditional vinegary European recipe.

If all that food has made you thirsty, head for the wine district east of Cape Town and sample vintages made from the national grape pinotage — a cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage — or a delicious tipple from one of the newer plantings of sauvignon blanc or shiraz. Or try a shot of the fiery fruit liqueur mampoer, also called witblitz. End your meal with a cup of rooibos tea, a popular herbal brew with no caffeine, low tannin and, reputedly, medicinal properties especially helpful for soothing babies.

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