South Africa, like its people, is a melting pot of different cultures and flavours, and nowhere is this more evident than in its food. Influenced by the Dutch settlers, native Africans and the slaves that were brought over from Indonesia and Malaysia, the ‘rainbow nation’ prefers a snack full of taste sensations and textures. As in so many parts of the world, South Africans have developed their very own unique snacks that for the most part can be found nowhere else but here – a definite must try for your next South African holiday.
This month we’ve decided to highlight six of the most beloved, possibly weird, but wonderfully tasty South African snacks. When you next visit this breathtaking country, be sure to try at least a couple from the below list (whilst enjoying an ice-cold Castle Lager or steaming cup of Rooibos tea). We guarantee that you will at least fall in love with one of them!
Not surprisingly, most of South Africa’s infamous snacks were ‘invented’ by the early pioneers as well as pastoralists who needed sustenance ‘on the go’ that preserved well in the African heat.
A visit to South Africa is not complete if you haven’t tried the country’s most famous snack! Biltong is made from dried, cured meat (not dissimilar to Beef Jerky) which is then thinly sliced and enjoyed on the spot. This South African classic has a distinctly salty flavor and is often rubbed with lots of interesting spices, mostly coriander seeds. This is the snack if you’re watching a game of rugby or cricket, are on a road trip or even if you’re just enjoying a barbeque (braai) in the sunshine.
2. Ouma’s Rusks
Ouma’s Rusks is a brand of hard baked sweetish bread that has become synonymous with South Africa. Even in the outskirts of London, if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a South African shop, you will always find a few boxes of Ouma’s Rusks. Best enjoyed first thing in the morning dipped contemplatively into a steaming cup of coffee or Earl Grey tea, Ouma’s Rusks are the South African equivalent to twice-baked biscuits. Swap your usual shortbread for an Ouma’s Rusk, it’s not as sweet but twice as crumbly and deliciously addictive in the mornings.
3. Peck’s Anchovette
Peck’s Anchovette is a uniquely South African product. Found in a little round jar in all the supermarkets and corner stores around the country, this is a savory fish spread (consisting mainly of filleted anchovies) best enjoyed spread thinly on a crispy piece of toast or crostini. Definitely an acquired taste, it’s similar to a tapenade just fishy and has been a staple amongst South African families for generations.
A national treasure, the samoosa originates from Central Asia but has become a signature snack amongst South Africans. Filled to all three corners with deliciously spicy chicken, meat or vegetable fillings, the samoosa is a triangular folded pastry, which is then gorgeously deep fried in oil and can be enjoyed either hot or cold. Found around the country but especially in KwaZulu-Natal, this bite-sized treat has a real bite to it, but watch out you will be smitten immediately.
Not for the faint hearted, koeksisters are a braided pastry that are deep-fried in gallons of oil and then soaked in a sugary syrup that will make the hairs on your arms stand on end. The perfect treat for anyone who has a sweet tooth, this uniquely South African treat has its roots in the kitchens of our Dutch forefathers and similar sweet pastries can be found in Holland to this day.
6. Mopane Worms
Considered a delicacy and one of the basic food staples of people living in rural parts of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa, mopane worms are certainly not everyone’s idea of a tasty snack! Eaten dry with apparently a similar crunch to potato crisps, they are in fact very nutritious and apparently quite tasty if you can get your head around eating dried caterpillars of the Gonimbrasia belina species, more commonly known as the emperor moth.
So when you’re next in South Africa, we can’t guarantee that everything on our list will be available at the local deli or corner shop, but if you’re an adventurous traveler your taste buds will be tickeled by one or two of these traditional treats! You may even want to take some home with you.