Forget your food allergies, aversions and intolerance and open your palate to the tastes of South Africa. We called in food expert Anna Trapido to make sure you know your koeksister from your walkie talkies and to give her recommendations on the best places in Johannesburg to eat traditional South African dishes.
Amadombolo Zulu-style steamed dumpling breads served as an accompaniment to stews.
Amagwinya Known as vetkoek in Afrikaans, these fried dough balls are similar in size and shape to a doughnut. Often sold by street hawkers and roadside vendors.
Amasi isiXhosa and isiZulu term for the soured milk commonly used as a drink or accompaniment to maize porridge. See also ingqaka.
Biltong Coriander-marinated dried meat, Afrikaans in origin but consumed widely by all South Africans.
Bobotie Beef or lamb mince bake, studded with dried apricots and topped with a savoury custard. Disputed origin but probably a fusion of Cape Malay, Afrikaans and Middle Eastern culinary genres.
Boerewors Literally ‘farmers’ sausage’ in Afrikaans. Beef and coriander sausage.
Boerekos Traditional Afrikaans food genre commonly associated with Gauteng and Free State food. Also known as Transvaal Pioneer Cuisine.
Braai South African term for barbeque.
Bredie Slow-cooked,usually mutton-based stews seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. Commonly cooked by people of both Afrikaans and Cape Malay origin.
Bunny chow Developed by South Africans of Indian origin. Curry is placed inside a hollowed-out loaf of bread. There are no rabbits involved. The term ‘bunny’ is derived from the Gujarati word ‘bhania’, meaning ‘trader class’.
Chakalaka Township vegetable and curry relish.
Denningvleis Cape Malay-style lamb, tamarind, onion and clove mélange. ‘Denning’ is the Javanese word for ‘buffalo’.
Droëwors Literally ‘dry sausage’ in Afrikaans. A snack food, based on the traditional boerewors but usually made in a thinner casing.
Gatsby Cape Town-style sandwich made from bread stuffed with any combination of meat, melted cheese, fried eggs, chips and pickled chillies. The name is thought to refer to the flat cap worn by Robert Redford in the film of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, The Great Gatsby.
Hertzoggies Afrikaans-style apricot jam and coconut topped biscuits named after former prime minister J.B.M. Hertzog. The coconut resembles his white, wispy beard.
Ingqaka Xhosa-style amasi curds with the whey drained off. Similar to ricotta in taste and texture.
Ingelegde vis Afrikaans term for Cape-style pickled fish (marinated in onion, turmeric, masala and allspice).
Inhloko isiZulu term for a slow-braised cow’s head. Not to be confused with a smiley.
Koeksister Afrikaner-style deep-fried, syrup-dipped plaited dough, while koesister is a Cape Malay-style deep fried, syrup-and-coconut-dipped oval piece of dough.
Kota Township sandwich made from a hollowed-out quarter bread loaf. Filled with a variety of meats, chips, cheeses and pickles. Also known as spathlo and skumbani.
Krummelpap Afrikaans term for maize porridge with a crumbly texture. Known in isiZulu as ‘putu pap.
Malva pudding The name is derived from the Afrikaans term ‘malvalekker’, meaning marshmallow. Syrup-drenched marshmallow-textured baked pudding with apricot jam.
Mealie Afrikaans word for a corn cob or maize plant.
Morogo SeSotho term for a variety of wild leafy vegetables.
Mogudu SeSotho term for tripe. Commonly braised with onion and salt.
Msoba isiZulu term for a South African indigenous fruit (Solanum nigrum) often used in syrups and jams. Referred to as nastergal in Afrikaans.
Pap Refers to maize porridge of various sorts.
Potchestroom Soweto term for flat, biscuit-like baked treats served at large gatherings, especially funerals. So called because the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is on the Old Potch Road in Soweto, and it is believed that those who enter the hospital leave ready for their funeral biscuits
Piri-piri Mozambican and Angolan olive oil, garlic and chilli marinade. Peri-peri is South African emulsified chilli sauce.
Potjiekos Afrikaans term for stews made in a cast iron, three-legged pot (known as a ‘potjie’) over an open fire.
Rooibos Cape indigenous shrub commonly brewed as a tea but also used as a seasoning ingredient.
Roti Cape Malay-style flat bread similar to an Indian roti but considerably lighter and flakier in texture.
Russian Cheap, fine-textured pork or beef-based sausage. Originally sold on the gold mines to African migrant mineworkers by 19th-century Eastern European immigrants.
Salomi Cape Malay-style curry wrap made with a roti flat bread.
Samp Dried, coarsely-broken corn. Known in Afrikaans as stampmielies.
Shisa nyama (also spelt chisa nyama) Township braai/steak house usually with a butchery attached. Customers choose meat raw and sometimes cook it themselves.
Slap tjips Thick, fried potato chips sold as takeaways wrapped in paper.
Smiley Roasted sheep’s head. During roasting lips retract exposing the animal’s teeth and making it appear to smile.
Snoek Large game fish, relative of the Barracuda. Common in Cape cuisine. Often barbequed with apricot jam glaze.
Umngqusho Xhosa-style maize and bean mélange.
Walkie talkies Spiced, grilled chicken feet.
WHERE TO FIND IT
BUNNIES Bunny chow originally comes from the province of KwaZulu-Natal. At Lugz, chef Jacinta Naidu makes marvellous lamb bunnies with tender meat and plump, sauce-infused potato chunks, topped with tangy carrot pickle. The Mother in Law masala-rich gravy causes a sizzle of spices to clear up the sinuses.
Canterbury Crossing, Bram Fischer Dr, Randburg, tel. +27 11 781 6244, Open 09:00–21:00.
CAPE MALAY Stylish suburban bistro D6 serves authentic Cape Creole flavours. Delicious denningvleis and bredie are always the order of the day. D6 Eatery, 42B Greenhill Road, Emmarentia tel. +27 11 486 7226. Open 12:00–22:00, Sun 12:00–15:30. Closed Mon.
KOTAS Kotas are available all over Soweto but they reach their diet-crushing, heartburn-inducing zenith at Mandela Family Restaurant.
8116 Vilakazi St, Orlando West, Soweto, tel. +27 74 696 6102. Open 09:00–18:00.
MEATS Caroline McCann is one of Joburg’s few women butchers. All her meat at Braeside Meat Market comes from free range and/or organic sources. Her boerewors, biltong and droëwors have won more prizes than she has had hot dinners.
Cnr 4th and 10th Sts, Parkhurst, tel. +27 11 788 3613.
S’KOP Umthandeni Zondo’s makeshift booth is directly under the skywalk that joins the taxi rank to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. He sells braised inhloko cow’s head with a mug of umhuzi gravy. Head flesh is for everyone but gravy sales are gender specific – apparently these magic meat juices reach parts of the male anatomy untouched by Viagra.
Zondo’s Unhloko, Chris Hani Baragwanath Taxi Rank, Old Potch Rd, Soweto.
SHISA NYAMA At the friendly Imbizo Shisa Nyama, customers are an eclectic mix of business bigwigs and ad agency hipsters. Service is friendly and fast. The quality of the steak is great – tender flesh, cooked to customer specification, gently spiced. There are no seasonal changes and vegetarians will be offered chicken. Food is complemented by a selection of South African wines, a few Champagnes, numerous high-end whiskies and plenty of beer.
Imbizo Shisa Nyama (aka Busy Corner), cnr Main and 29 September Rds, Extension 1, Ebony Park, Midrand, tel. +27 11 312 2468.
TRIPE Not a single food stall but a series of stand-alone pavement businesses clustered on a busy township corner where stallholders sell their own unique version of hearty, onion-braised, salt-and-pepper-seasoned ox tripe. Go all out and order a half portion of walkie talkies, too. Served with pap and a side of spicy bean chakalaka.
Fifteen, cnr 15th Ave and Ruth Rd, Alexandra
Anna Trapido is the author of ‘Hunger For Freedom, The Story of Food in the Life of Nelson Mandela’, and ‘To the Banqueting House: African Cuisine, An Epic Journey’. She is also the former editor of ‘Rossouw’s by Diners Club South African Restaurant Guide 2015’.