Food & Daily life

BBQ recipe contests – a serious business

With the warm climate and outdoor lifestyle, it’s no wonder South Africans love braai or barbecue. Along the Western coastal areas, grilled crayfish and snoek (a large oily fish) are popular barbecued food.

At mealtime

Meal time

In this video… A cook at an SOS Children’s Village in South Africa prepares delicious meals for the kindergarten class. For Tuesday, it’s chicken, rice and mashed pumpkin. Scrumptious.

But even when fish is plentiful, South Africans love their meat and where affordable enjoy lamb, steak, chicken, sosaties (kebabs) and boerewors (sausages). But don’t ask a South African for their secret barbecue recipe – competitions to see who can produce the best braai food are a serious business!

Traditional African dishes are often based around the staple crop of maize, such as umngqusho in Xhosa cooking, made using dried corn kernels and sugar beans (one of Nelson Mandela’s favourite meals).

‘Small pots of food’

On the open fires of many villages, South Africans also make potjiekos or stews. These are prepared in traditional three-legged cast iron pots (potije), so the dish literally means ‘small pots of food’.

Maize porridge meal cooking potsRecipes can include meat, vegetables and starches such as rice or potatoes, all slow-cooked in a pot (which is often heated by wood, charcoal or dried animal dung).

Potjiekos can be spicy. Malay slaves (mostly from Indonesia) were brought to the Cape in the late 1600s and brought with them a love of spices and their tradition of combining these with sweet ingredients. South African meat and fish dishes are therefore often sweetened with spiced fruit.

Indian food influential

Malays weren’t the only people who brought their culinary practices from the East. Many thousands of Indians came over to work in the sugar cane fields of the KwaZulu-Natal region and Indian food is influential.

In places like Durban, a popular take-away dish is bunny chow, a scooped-out loaf of bread filled with curry. It may have come from the Indian plantation workers, who used bread as a practical way of transporting their food to the fields. Another story says the dish became popular during apartheid, because it could be served through the back-windows of shops and restaurants which excluded Indians, black or coloured people.

A long history of wine-making

Thanks to the European settlers, South Africa also has a long history of wine-making. The first vineyards were planted by the Dutch Commander Jan van Riebeck in 1655.

European influences

Various other dishes, such as sausages, pies, tarts and roasts, show the influence of the Europeans – the Portuguese, Dutch, English, French and Germans.

Today, the wide range of cuisine and cooking methods in South Africa reflect the diverse nature of its people and heritage.