A South African Omnivore’s 100

Koeksisters

Just like comparisons, lists are odious. As soon as you make a list, you set yourself up to be disagreed with, shouted down, corrected and generally berated for what you included – and for what you left out. It’s a lose-lose situation! But when you are as list-obsessed as I am, you go ahead and make the list anyway. After all, you are talking to the woman whose favourite book for most of the 80s was the Book of Lists.

Cast your minds back about to the blogosphere about 18 months or so ago when there was a list dong the rounds called the Omnivore’s 100. Somebody had bravely taken it upon himself to put together and publicly share a list of the 100 things that he thought every omnivorous foodie should try at least once. Of course, it took all of 5 minutes for people to start pulling the list apart: it was too American (who else eats S’mores?); not vegetarian enough (umm… omnivore…!); not ethnic enough – you get the picture. Soon, every man and his dog was putting together a top 100 list and I toyed briefly with putting together a South African one. Sadly, I never got round to it… until now.

My list is, of course, purely subjective and I’m not expecting every other South African to agree with my choices.  But if you are heading for South Africa any time soon, whether to attend the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup or for any other reason, you could do a lot worse than trying the things on this list to get an idea of the diversity of the country’s cuisine.  Bon appetit!

  1. Biltong
  2. Droëwors
  3. Bokkoms
  4. Kudu
  5. Springbok
  6. Ostrich meat (as steak, mince or sausage)
  7. Knysna oysters
  8. Alikreukel (a type of large periwinkle)
  9. Snoek
  10. Warthog
  11. Crocodile
  12. Kakamas yellow cling peaches
  13. Guavas
  14. Peppadews
  15. Prickly pears
  16. Rooibos tea (also known as redbush tea)
  17. Red espresso
  18. Koeksusters (Afrikaner version)
  19. Koe’susters (Cape Malay version)
  20. Venison stew served with dried peaches
  21. Souskluitjies (sweet dumplings)
  22. Karoo lamb
  23. Umnqushu (samp and beans)
  24. Umqomboti (sorghum beer)
  25. Morogo/Mfino (maize meal with wild green leaves like dandelions, pumpkin leaves or wild spinach)
  26. Amasi (fermented milk – like plain yoghurt)
  27. Ouma rusks
  28. Mrs Ball’s chutney
  29. Aromat
  30. Sousboontjies (beans in sauce)
  31. Slaphakskeentjies (cooked onion salad in a sweet sauce)
  32. Bunny chow
  33. Vetkoek (deep-fried doughballs, usually filled with sweet or savoury filling)
  34. Milk tart
  35. Smileys (whole roasted sheep’s head – not for the faint-hearted!)
  36. Karoo “oysters” (grilled sheep’s testicles)
  37. Skaapstertjies (grilled sheep’s tails)
  38. Curried tripe & trotters
  39. Blancmange
  40. Crunchies (crunchy oat cookies)
  41. Peppermint Crisp
  42. Cape brandy pudding (date pudding with a brandy syrup)
  43. Brandy & Coke
  44. Steers burger (knocks McDonalds clear out of the park!)
  45. Nando’s peri-peri chicken
  46. Cape seed loaf (a multi-grain bread)
  47. Wasgoedbondeltjies (cooked pork mince in pastry)
  48. Skilpadjies/Vlermuise (lamb’s liver wrapped in caul fat and grilled)
  49. Boerewors
  50. Mieliepap (maize porridge)
  51. Potjiekos
  52. Crayfish/Kreef (Cape rock lobster)
  53. Yellowtail sashimi (yellowtail being a local fish)
  54. Spur pink sauce
  55. Spur onion rings
  56. Monkeygland sauce (no real monkeys involved!)
  57. Dom Pedros
  58. Amarula Cream liqueur
  59. Van der Hum liqueur (flavoured with naartjies)
  60. Naartjies (loose-skinned citrus fruits similar to satsumas)
  61. Romany Creams
  62. TV Bar (a chocolate bar)
  63. Safari minced fruit dainties
  64. Fruit roll( fruit leather made from local fruits)
  65. Snowballs (cake balls sandwiched with jam and rolled in dessicated coconut)
  66. Apricot jam
  67. Shanghai steak (beef strips with peas, served in all South African Chinese restaurants, but aparently not in China!)
  68. Mopane worms
  69. Bobotie
  70. “Walkie-talkies” (chicken feet and beaks deep-fried in batter)
  71. Shawarma (grilled lamb in pita – hugely popular in Johannesburg)
  72. Sosaties
  73. Samoosas
  74. Biriyani
  75. Gesmoorde vis (salted or smoked fish with tomatoes and potatoes)
  76. Denningvleis (a Cape Malay lamb dish)
  77. Hertzoggies (tartlets with an apricot jam and meringue filling)
  78. Pickled fish
  79. Asynpoeding (vinegar pudding)
  80. Peppermint Crisp tart
  81. Ostrich egg
  82. Chilli bites (chickpea flour fritters with spinach and chilli, popular in Durban)
  83. Chakalaka (spicy relish)
  84. Kaapse jongens (brandied grapes)
  85. Roosterkoek (bread baked on the BBQ grill)
  86. Pampoenkoekies (cinamonny pumpkin fritters)
  87. Pot bread
  88. Ghoukums (sour figs)
  89. Anchovy toast (spread thick with Peck’s Anchovette)
  90. Melon and ginger preserve
  91. Melrose biltong cheese spread
  92. Bovril (spread on bread, not as a drink!)
  93. “Russian” sausages
  94. Nik Naks (nothing like the UK version!)
  95. Mango atjar (a Cape Malay pickle)
  96. Murkhu (chickpea flour snack, popular in Durban)
  97. Roti (flatbread eaten with curries)
  98. Gem squash
  99. Waterblommetjiebredie
  100. Pineapple chunks coated with chilli powder (served on sticks in Durban)

Phew!  And so we’ve eaten our way through the country’s provinces and history, from the sublime to the ridiculous!  I hope that visitors get to try even a small number of these items – there certainly is variety in there.  If you think there’s anything I’ve left out or should have left out, leave me a comment – I’d love to hear what you think.

This post is part of a new series for 2010 called Sundays in South Africa.  As the entire football-conscious world knows by now, the FIFA World Cup 2010 will be taking place for the first time ever on African soil – in my home country of South Africa!  I can’t tell you how proud this makes me, or how good it is to see that all the stadiums that the naysayers said would never be built on time standing tall and proud and beautiful.  The country is, of course, anticipating a huge surge in visitors and I know that many people will see the cup as a reason to visit a country they have long been meaning to visit, and use the tournament as a jumping-off point for visiting other, non-football South African destinations. With this in mind, as well as my backlog of posts about my South African trips, I will be trying to post a review of somewhere South African, or a South African recipe, every Sunday in the run-up to the tournament.  I can’t pretend it is going to be a comprehensive guide to South Africa – but it will certainly be enough to give you some ideas!  Click here for previous posts in the series.

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  1. Super Sarah says

    Fantastic, I love it! I just wish I had read this before coming back to Australia though, there are so many on there that I should have made a point of eating. I CAN’T believe I didn’t have a Steers burger while on holiday, what was I thinking!?!

  2. says

    Making me hungry and homesick in one post! I just baked some crunchies, for the taste of home, and had forgotten how buttery and delicious they are. Only one out of three kids likes them unfortunately, but the parents tucked in.
    There’s a Natal speciality that I believe is not to be missed: walkie-talkies – a dish made from chicken heads and feet. Not for me!

  3. says

    I want to move to South Africa for about a year just so I can try everything on that list! Then to Vietnam for the 100 Vietnamese Foods to Try, then to Italy for the 100 Italian Foods to Try…

  4. says

    These lists are fun – I did the British one a while ago. Not sure I managed to include everything though and some of them I’d probably change now! Anyway, I’ve eaten 13 on your list, not bad but not great. I still have an empty packet of ‘Monkey Gland’ sauce I brought back from SA. It caused up much mirth at the time.

  5. LizaB says

    Fantastic list! I am heading to SA this weekend for just 6 short days. After a year in the UK, I can’t wait to see my family and friends, but equally important to enjoy the food and wine! My mom spent yesterday in her kitchen baking koeksisters and “Hertzoggies”, and my sister bought biltong from my favorite butcher in Pretoria.

  6. says

    Very impressive! What I love most about South African food (apart from the wonderful tastes) are the names. Slaphakskeentjies, vlermuise, bunny chow. How can you resist dishes sounding like this? Thanks very much.

  7. says

    I’m proud to say I’ve had 83 of the items on the list. Of the remaining 17 most will remain untouched by me – the thought of Walkie talkies is just a bit toooo gruesome for me!
    But you forgot my favourite – Crunchie chocolate bars (do you get those overseas?).

  8. says

    Wow, there are so many lists that I am not familiar with. Need to learn more about all of this food that sounds really good. To be honest with you, although my husband born and raise there, I can guarantee that so many of this food he doesn’t know about. That is very sad, no? Anyway, thanks for the lists Jeanne. I think I can learn more about SA food from you then from my husband.

  9. tamara says

    Oh I am so jealous but it’s been fun reading this post – my husband is heading to SA this weekend for a week. I always said I could handle him travelling with work so long as he never went back to SA without me.
    Sarah at Maison Cupcake – If you want to have a go at Bunny Chow it is really easy to make, Madhur Jaffrey does a good recipe and explains the history of it in her Ultimate Curry Bible

  10. says

    mmmm…so many good foods. So glad we get most of items on your list in supermarkets in Australia. Rooibos is becoming quite a popular tea amongst non South Africans all over the world. Makes me proud.