Lonely Planet recently announced its top 30 destinations to visit in 2023* – and South Africa features in the top five, as a destination in which to experience memorable and diverse cuisine.
“SA has a multi-cultural history, with many influences on its gastronomic make-up,” says Laure Bornet, GM, KAYAK EMEA, who manages Cheapflights.co.za. “From Dutch to Cape Malay, German to French – the best of many cultures has been infused into exciting local culinary styles to take travel to another sensory level.”
In addition to the historical influences, the country has attracted top chef talent – and many of these gifted professionals are on foodies’ bucket lists the world over. In addition to the ‘celebrity chefs’, each province in the country has certain foods for which it is known, making it an exciting destination if you’re on a culinary journey across SA.
Journey to the Cape
The Eastern Cape is the land of dairy farms, angora goats, oranges and prickly pears. It is also considered the home of the Xhosa people, whose traditional foods include beef and lamb/mutton (using every part of the cow and sheep, including the tripe and trotters), umphokoqo (African ‘salad’), umqa (a stiff maize meal porridge), and vegetables including mielies, leafy green vegetables like spinach and beetroot, as well as pumpkin, potatoes, cabbages and corn.
Some restaurants that serve traditional SA food in the Eastern Cape include Phaka Restaurant in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), and Molo Lolo Restaurant & Cooking School in Addo.
Moving from the Northern down to the Western Cape, these provinces hug the Atlantic Ocean making them destinations rich in delicious fresh seafood – from yellowfin tuna to snoek and crayfish, rich mussel and haddock soup, to freshly-caught linefish and shellfish. The province also has a strong Cape Malay influence, so it is a culinary hotspot for spicy bredies, curries, boboties, stuffed cabbage leaves, and sosaties.
Influences hail from Cape Malay, Indian and Dutch origins, and you can sample some traditional mixed-heritage foods at Velskoendraai Farmers Market & Restaurant for bredies and for tastings of the unique rooibos tea grown in the area and Muisbosskerm for seafood.
Cape region primary airport: Cape Town International Airport, Cape Town
Average return economy flight price to Cape Town this summer: R3 539
Stop in at the central Highveld
Travelling from the west to the east coast, you enter the multicultural-influenced Gauteng province, which is an apex to multiple surrounding provinces and their foodie influences. From Zulu and Xhosa and Indian, to Sotho, Dutch and Malay flavours, foodie travellers can experiences the tastes of umleqwa (chicken stew), pap, samosas, boerewors, and mogodu with ting (a tripe stew paired with fermented sorghum porridge).
Get your fill of traditional Gauteng flavours at places like ThePlace2B in Lanseria, and Imbizo Shisanyama in Midrand Mall.
Gauteng primary airport: OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg
Average return economy flight price to Johannesburg this summer: about R2 534
From coast to coast
Finally we head across to the east coast, where you’ll find KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), which is bordered by the warm Indian Ocean. Pulling from traditional Zulu culinary influences, you’ll find interesting delicacies there such as mogodu (tripe), amadumbi (Zulu potatoes), walkie-talkies (boiled chicken feet) and mieliepap.
On the more natural side, KZN is known for its sugar cane fields, banana plantations, and great seafood. An Indian influence is also very strong, bringing you spicy hot curries and bunny chow – the latter being a unique dish developed in the area by early Indian residents.
Great places to grab a bunny chow are Curry Os at Point Waterfront, or Cane Cutters in a hidden upper corner of Umhlanga. And if you’re heading the Zulu culinary influence route, try Afro’s Chicken Shop or The Joint Jazz Cafe in Durban.
KZN primary airport: King Shaka International Airport, La Mercy
Average return economy flight price to La Mercy this summer: about R2 224