My To Eat List
- Bobotie – considered the national dish, fruity curried mince with an egg custard topping
- Braai – South African for BBQ – synonymous with their culture
- Biltong – cured dried raw meat
- Boerewors – sausages
- Pap – mielie-meal, similar to polenta, crumbly harder version; Krummelpap
- Chakalaka – spicy vegetables
- Bunny Chow – a bread loaf filled with meat curry
- Vetkoek – fried dough bread filled with beef mince
- Koeksister – doughnuts soaked in lemony syrup
- Springbok & Kudu – interestingly, even though indigenous, when the health benefits came to light – prices went up – now pricier than lamb and beef!
- Snoek – popular fish – hard to find elsewhere, so get it while you can!
- Rooibus – caffeine free tea, grown locally
- Buchu – leaves are used to make a tea
- Num Num – Carissa macrocarpa – Natal Plum
- Sour Fig – often used to make a conserve
- Wine – if you drink alcohol, this is one of the best countries to sample local wines
- Amasi – popular fermented milk drink
- Eugenia – a small pink/red pear shaped fruit
- Mrs Balls peach chutney – in every SA household, the ‘to go to’ condiment
During my stay in Cape Town, in-between polo events and all important excursions – an exhilarating trip to Table Mountain and Robben Island, where black prisoners were fed a different diet to their Asian or mixed-race counterparts and Nelson Mandela grew his own chillies to spice up the ennui of prison food, I delved into the local food scene as much as possible.
Famed for it’s game – namely Kudu and Springbok, the fresh fish is not to be missed either. Snoek, which can only be found in South Africa and some parts of New Zealand and Australia is traditionally cooked on a braai (aka South African BBQ), but if you haven’t been invited to one, don’t fret, most hotels have a Sunday Braai. Due to logistics, fresh seafood is very accessible. Lunch consisting of a huge seafood sharing platter in Cape Town Fish Market restaurant in V & A Waterfront, fulfills all your fish desires. Kalk Bay is worth visiting to see the boats coming in and locals buying fish straight from them, the dock is quaint and sells the freshest fish and chips around – Hake, Yellow Tail or Snoek are the ones to go for, calamari is also a good bet. Die Strandloper is arguably the best for seafood, go on Sunday for pots of everything from calamari to crab.
Locals certainly exploit the array of indigenous ingredients, and there are plenty of farmers markets to see them in the flesh. I particularly like The Old Biscuit Mill where I’m told the locals go to shop – what better recommendation? it was here, that I picked up bags of biltong, both beef and unusually – tuna. Villa Zille Oranjezicht City Farm (OZCF) is a neighbourhood non-profit project embracing local produce, culture and the community in Cape Town, the market is a great opportunity to get to grips with the latest Cape Town food scene. I couldn’t get enough of the Buchu cordial.
Naturally, a visit to South Africa wouldn’t be fulsome without a vineyard tour and perhaps wine tasting thrown in. Mark Dendy Young, owner of La Petite Ferme, showed me his wine cellar, located beneath his raved about restaurant, nestled in the hills overlooking the Franschhoek Valley and his quote stuck with me – “In the wine industry, having a cellar or a farm is like breeding horses, where you can have the best mare, the best stallion, the best jockey, the best stabling, everything, but as with wine, where you can have the best vineyards, soils, winemaker and barrels – you don’t necessarily always have a winner”. That said, his winery is award winning and the food furthers its renowned reputation. Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate is also worth a visit – simply a stunning property in a gorgeous setting, a meal here is bound to give a lasting memory. Executive Chef Darren Badenhorst who follows a seasonal approach uses everything from the grape skins to add tartness, juice for pickling and the staves and vine trimmings for smoking to enhance his menu.
Whilst South Africa doesn’t have a Michelin star rating, it doesn’t mean Michelin starred quality food is unavailable, on the contrary. I was lucky enough to eat both lunch and dinner (normally a 3 month waiting list to get a seat here) at Le Quartier Français and chat with ‘The Tasting Room’ Executive Chef Margot Janse. “What we do in ‘The Tasting Room’, is we really tell the story of South Africa, very much based on indigenous ingredients, that you won’t know and would not eat at home”. Here I had my first taste of num num, buchu, eugenia and amasi, to name a few. I would suggest booking in advance for the 3 hour long, 8 course African inspired surprise tasting menu, with the option of wine pairing, or at least pop by for a delightful lunch at the The Living Room, for a lighter tapas style menu.