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Foodie Adventure

A Taste of South Africa: The foodies’ guide

South Africa is famed for its wines, but the food culture here is just as rich, both by the indigenous population and the many visitors that came ashore here.

By Triona McBride

On a vacation to South Africa start in Cape Town and treat yourself to an aromatic Cape Malay curry. Indian, Indonesian and Malaysian slaves were brought over by the Dutch and French when they came to the city in the 17th century. They brought their own recipes and spices, but used local produce to whip up their favourite dish. The curries often contain turmeric, fruit and meat or fish, and are cooked into a rich stew. Some of the best Cape Malay curries can be found in the colorful Bo Kaap area of the city, where descendants of the original Cape Malays live.

If you’d like something sweet for dessert, then the Dutch-influences Melktert is one of the most popular treats across the country. Creamy and more-ish, it has a sweet pastry crust and has been a staple for nearly 300 years.

The most popular snack across South Africa is biltong. This meaty treat originated from the tradition where Khoikhoi and other indigenous tribes used to hang and salt the meat in order to preserve it. Later, the Voortrekkers began adding spices and herbs to game found in the wild, which they used as food on their great journeys through the interior of the country. Biltong is actually a healthy snack in moderation, as it’s full of iron and protein, as well as being tasty.

Venture north along the coastline to Durban to sample the spicy street food called bunny chow. First created by the Indian immigrants who populated the Natal district of the city, it consists of hollowed-out bread with a spicy curry filling. However, “bunny” doesn’t refer to rabbit, as one would think, but likely derived from “bania” which means merchant in Sanskrit.

The braai, a traditional South African meal, originated in Johannesburg, where butchers would set up a grill outside their shop and sell the cooked meat. Now it is a social event where people gather and bring along their meat for barbecuing, typically beef, chicken, lamb and sausage.

If you’re looking for a typical South African dish at a braai, choose the boerewors, made from beef mixed with pork or lamb and spices. It is cooked and served in a coiled shape. Once you’ve tasted it, you’ll never barbecue again without it.

Another dish that comes from Johannesburg, but can be found countrywide, is the vegetarian chakalaka. Different versions are made regionally, but usually it has a tinned tomato base with onions, beans and spices added. Chakalaka is often served with pap, a maize porridge that has a texture like polenta.

Although some would suggest that you can’t pair wine with curry, try a national favourite, bobotie, which is a fruity curry dish, with a glass of Syrah, and you may change your mind.

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South Africa with MSC Cruises

Duration: 5 nights

Where: Cape Town, South Africa | Wallis Bay, Namibia | Cape Town, South Africa

Ship: MSC Sinfonia

Price: From $199 pp

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Published 03.22.22