South African cuisine is popularly known as ‘Rainbow Cuisine’ due to its variety and diversified nature. South African food is all about conventional as well as unconventional cuisines. Right from crocodile sirloins to fried caterpillars to sheep heads, South African food sometimes is not meant for the weak hearted people. For the more conventional type of eaters there are eateries that offer a familiar global menu - anything from hamburgers to sushi to pad Thai to spaghetti bolognaise.
South Africa is a large country similar to the size of Texas. Most of the land available for agricultural cultivation is unfortunately not utilized. Most of the meats are imported in South Africa; hence there is a cost factor. South Africans love to barbecue their meat often called ‘Braais’. It is more of a passion for a typical South African person to Braais. South Africa is quite famous for its wine and beer production too.
Classification of South African Food
South Africa is mainly divided into two regions, one inhabited by indigenous people and other by several immigrants from Britain, Dutch, China and other countries. The indigenous people are also called Khoisan, Xhosa and Zulu. The staple diet of these people is maize and they eat a lot of roast and dried meat like beef, mutton, goat and chicken. On the one hand the settlers from Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom brought European style of cooking into South Africa. New foods such as biltong, droë wors (dried sausage) and rusks were introduced by the settlers in that region. Eventually they jelled will the local cuisines.
Historical and Cultural Influences on South African Food
The staple South African food includes tortoise, squash, coconuts and crayfish. Dried salted and spiced meat (also called Biltong), dried biscuits (called beskuits) were the popular food that time. The Northern African people called Bantus gradually settled and introduced agriculture. Vegetables like corns and sweet potatoes were grown. Modern Zulu people rely on food like cornmeal, meats and vegetables like corn and yams.
The Dutch settled in South Africa somewhere 200 years ago and brought their own styles of cuisines. The Dutch settlers were called Boers and they introduced fruits and vegetables like pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers and pineapples. Many Other countries like France, India and China influenced South African cuisine. Wine was introduced to the cuisine by the French who first started cultivating vines in the region. Baked goods were introduced by the Europeans to the cuisine. Meat pies were introduced by the British and Germans introduced pastries.
Commonly Used Ingredients and Cooking Methods in Preparing Mexican Food
South Africans use vegetables and fruits like including yams, okra, groundnuts, cabbage, watermelon, cassava, maize and black-eyed peas. Melegueta is one of the special spices of this region along with pilau mix and curry powder which are used in a number of Asain cuisines as well. Seafood like shrimps and lobster are generally fried in oil. Meats like lamb, pork, chicken and other meats are either barbecued or stewed. People also prefer slow cooked food over conventionally cooked food.
Traditional South African Food
South African traditional foods can sometimes be a little gross for the non-natives since they include dishes that are commonly not eaten in many parts of the world. These maybe the head of a sheep or a fried caterpillar dish or even the sirloin of a crocodile. In South Africa Rugby is quite a famous sport and people generally eat dried and salted meat (biltong) while enjoying a match. Babotie, is a Malay version of Shepard's pie quite relished by people.
Special/ Festival South African Food
South African food for festivals and special occasions includes dishes made with rock lobster or lamb or pork meat with seasonings.
Serving appetizers depends on the size of the dinner. Sambals (condiments such as chopped vegetables and chutneys), atjar (pickled fruits and vegetables), yams, geel rys (yellow rice), and green bean salad are popular side dishes.
Gourmet South African Food
South African gourmet food may not be as elaborate as French food, however, South African people truly believe in a hearty meal. A typical gourmet food would include a main course such as bobotie, seafood, or mutton stew, accompanied by vegetables and rice. Desserts like fruits, cakes and puddings complete the meal. South African Wine and beer are quite famous globally.
South African Food Trivia: The delightful ‘Rainbow Cuisine’ of South Africa will surely remind you how much colorful and joyous eating can be.