The cuisine of South Africa; a feast of uniqueness
12th January 2017
The cuisine of South Africa; a feast of uniqueness – this is how culinary lovers describe what the country has to offer in terms of food. It is easy to find yourself overwhelmed with flavours from around the world mixed with the country’s indigenous cuisine. Few people realise just how much South African culinary heritage has been influenced by ‘Khoi’ and ‘San’ people. It is because of the common understanding that varied menus are hard to sustain in the desert. However, the truth is a bit different.
‘San’ people constantly searched the ‘veld’ (field) for herbs and nuts and berries. Edible roots and leaves also featured on their daily diet. ‘San’ men were skilful hunters who provided antelope, bird and small animal meat for their families on regular basis.
Seafood was ‘Khoi’ people’s speciality. Some of them, known as ‘Strandlopers’ lived by the ocean and dined on crayfish, seaweed, seals and penguins. At some point in history, they embarked on a nomadic type of livestock farming, starting with sheep and moving to cattle later on.
The legend has it that a long time ago ‘Khoi’ people came up with crisply fried sheep-tail fat called “kaiings” (cracklings). Today “kaiings” still bring enjoyment to those who appreciate them.
Indigenous people’s herb knowledge was borrowed by the early settlers and migrant farmers. They quickly started adding herbs into their Potjies, jams and salads.
In 1652 a Dutch company established a refreshment station and a vegetable garden in the Cape. It supplied crews of the passing ships with healthy, fresh food.
The Malay slaves also left their culinary trademark on the Cape. The aromatic spices they used soon captured the hearts of the European settlers. Many Malaysian and Indonesian women showed skill and imagination in adapting their original recipes to the South African food reality.
Ever wondered where the Droewors tradition comes from? It was brought in by the Germans who introduced their ‘wurst’ to South Africa. The great wine tradition, the country is so proud of today, has was started by the French Huguenots in 1689. They brought a collection of vines to start up vineyards.
Puddings, pies and roasts were the English contributions to the South African cuisine. The chilli taste of today’s peri-peri dishes comes from Portugal. Portuguese never made an attempt to colonise the country, but the taste they presented it with has become a significant part of South Africa food heritage.
The South African cuisine also owes a huge debt of gratitude to Bantu people. They championed protein-enriched food by introducing grilled, cooked or fried Mopani caterpillars, locusts and termites. And what they once considered a usual meal is now regarded as a delicacy.
The South African cuisine is famous for its uniqueness and variety. It is heavily influenced by the nomadic roots of the people of all ethnic groups who inhabit the country. Pot food, braai and the much-loved biltong are the meals thought to represent the nomadic nature of South African food culture at its best.