Speciality Dishes From South Africa

 

There are some South African specialities that visitors to our shores won't find anywhere else in the world. Here's a taste of what to expect:

Carpaccio - the Italians might think they have sole right to this rare beef specialty, but the truth is that South African chefs have topped their invention with their own innovations - ostrich, eland and springbok carpaccio - delicate, delicious and exotic!

Cape salmon - not just the Canadians and the Scots have fabulous salmon. This Cape fish is a delicacy that appears regularly on menus and it is well worth a try for its succulence and rich colour.

Kingklip - no other country consumes as much kingklip (also known as Congrio, Ling and Rockling in other parts of the Southern Hemisphere) as South Africans do. A sturdy fish with beautiful flakes, it absorbs flavours well and packs a satisfying ocean punch.

Karoo lamb - by all accounts most chefs agree that we have something special in Karoo lamb. The animals feed on fragrant shrubs and wild herbs that lend the meat its unique flavour. Grilled, gourmet-style, barbequed or basted, it's a sure-fire winner.

Monkey gland steak - tastes marginally better than it sounds. It was invented as a joke and then managed to survive against all odds. Decades ago overseas chefs, incensed at the bad habit Johannesburg diners displayed of pouring tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce over everything, sought revenge. They blended the two ingredients, added a few others, named it monkey gland in jest, sent it out as an insult and what do you know - it still lingers in the far corners of steak-house menus.

Crunchies, Peppermint Crisps, Flakes, Kit Kats - South Africa exports tons of chocolate bars. Once you've tasted any of the above you'll understand why care packages sent to South Africans living overseas always include one or more of these. They're available at all supermarkets and convenience stores countrywide and make great gifts.

Nando's - this is fast food that is actually healthy and tastes divine. So successful is this Portuguese/South African flame-grilled chicken franchise that Nando's restaurants in Portugal, Australia and New Zealand are now flourishing and multiplying. You've got to try it at least once - peri-peri chicken being a South African institution. It's a marinade and basting sauce made with chilies, garlic, fresh lemon juice, herbs and pepper that transforms mild chickens into something fiery with attitude.

Biltong and boerewors - these must be our national icons in the food arena. In the early days before refrigeration the Dutch preserved excess meat from the hunt by rubbing it with salt, pepper, coriander, vinegar and saltpeter and hanging it out to dry. Meat treated in this manner lasted indefinitely as long as it was kept dry. Boerewors is a robust farmer's sausage sold in coiled ribbons. The meat is spicy and redolent of coriander and sizzles and splatters companionably when slapped on the coals or dropped into a hot skillet.

Mielies (corn) and pap (maize meal porridge) - Maize has long been the basis of African cuisine. They roast it on open fires and grind it finely to make the maize meal for their beloved maize porridge. Eaten at breakfast with sour milk and sugar or served with meat drizzled with a tomato and onion gravy, it's a national treasure.

Samoosas - these triangular savoury pastries are the Indian South African answer to the English meat pie (although we have those too). The filling can be made of either chili-laden mince or a spicy vegetable mix. For food on the run they are hard to beat and when bought fresh and piping hot, they celebrate all things spicy and nice.