South Africa is a beautiful country with stunning natural landscapes, vibrant cities, and rich history. It’s a great place to explore nature, see some incredible wildlife and visit some of the most unique cities in the world where you can an about the troubled history of the country. On top of all that, South Africa has some incredible cuisine. Braai, the South African barbecue is probably the most famous thing when it comes to food. However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many delicious South African street food dishes that you simply must try when you visit and this article is about the best of them!
Street food in South Africa is incredible and there are all sorts of things to try but if you only try one dish, it should be Bunny Chow. This street-food staple was brought to the country by Indian immigrants in Durban but has since spread throughout the country. It was originally designed as a lunch for workers but these days it’s loved by everyone. Bunny Chow is a hollowed-out bread roll filled with delicious pork or chicken curry. There’s also a vegetarian option filled with beans or lentils. It’s a perfect dish for eating on the go because you can tear chunks of bread from the top to dip in and then eat the bread bowl once you’re done. Street food is a great option if you’re traveling on a budget because it’s a lot cheaper than eating out at restaurants and the quality is just as good.
One of the most loved snacks in South Africa is the Gatsby. This one-foot-long local take on the classic sub sandwich is filled with fish, chips and an amazing peri-peri sauce. Gatsby is made for sharing, hence it’s usually divided into few pieces and it comes in a few variations. You can choose between chicken, steak, calamari, and viennas. However, street food is not for everyone and many people don’t feel safe eating it.
You’ve probably tried Biltong at home (it’s called beef jerky over here) but it’s nothing compared to the stuff you’ll find in South Africa. You wouldn’t think that there’s much skill in drying out some beef but there really is. Biltong is a lot different to the beef jerky you might be used to. It’s thicker, a lot chewier and it’s nowhere near as sweet as the western version. Most of the time it’s made from beef but they also make Chicken, Ostrich, Buffalo Biltong and they even have a bacon version.
Boerewors is to South Africa what hot dogs are to the US, just better! The world famous South African Braai isn’t complete without the Boerewors. Also known as Boerie Roll, this amazing spicy sausage is arguably the most iconic South African street food. This delicious snack is a companion to every sports game and festival, just like the hot dog. The Boerewors consist of a farmer’s sausage that’s a delicious mix of beef combined with ground pork and fat, fried onions, and tomato-sauced boerie in a soft white roll.
However, what makes the Boerewors so rich in flavor and aroma are the spices added to the ground meat. Coriander, black pepper, cloves, and nutmeg are all added while the Boerewors are being cooked over the coles, creating the characteristic, intense and saliva-inducing aroma that you won’t be able to resist.
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If you like to eat well while traveling, this is one street food dish in South Africa you have to try. And you simply haven’t fully experienced life in South Africa until you’ve had a freshly fried golden Vetkoek. South Africa is a country of many different ethnic groups and religions but Vetkoek is absolutely loved by everyone, from Cape Town to Durban. No matter whether you’re young or old, sober or drunk, rich or poor, if you’re South African, this is probably your favorite. You can find Amagwinya stalls on literally every corner, with shops opening as early as 6 o’clock in the morning so children can have their breakfasts before going to school. Like most other street food dishes, you can choose what you want in your Vetkoek. It comes as a mince-and-veggie curry, polony, bobotie-spiced mince, or a simple butter spread version.
Are you planning to visit Cape Town? Check out this list of unique things to do in Cape Town.
It’s sure scary to look at a sheep’s head and yet alone eat it but after you taste the juicy cheek meat known as ‘Smiley’ your perception about what’s eatable and what’s not will completely change. This street food dish became popular during the apartheid when the butchers would get the prime cuts of the meat and the township residents would get the heads of the dead animals. Working with what they had, township residents came up with the Smiley.
Sheep heads are boiled in large drums and the fur is removed with heated metal rods. Finally, the chef presents the smiley on a piece of newspaper and it’s your turn. The meat is surprisingly tender and juicy and is to be consumed with your hands. If you’re not sure how to eat it, ask the chef- he’ll be happy to show you. This is one dish you obviously won’t find in most ‘Western’ venues. If you want to try it, you’ll have to venture into the townships, where you’ll find plenty of Smiley stalls.
South Africans refer to this combo of chicken feet and chicken head as Walkie Talkie. This is another dish that sounds disgusting to all modern standards but is surprisingly delicious. The Walkie Talkie comes in two variations, boiled or roasted (braaied) with both of them being well-seasoned, crispy, and surprisingly delicious. I know the thought of it isn’t really appetizing and it doesn’t even look great when you see it but once you try it, you won’t be able to have enough of Walkie Talkie. Together with the Smiley, this is one of the scariest-looking street food dishes in South Africa but if you want to fully experience the South African cuisine and culture, trying both at least once is a must.
Mostly popular among students but loved by everyone, Johnny’s Roti is one of Durban’s most famous street food snacks. This mouthwatering chip and cheese roti stuffed with (mostly mutton) curry is known as the local hangover dish. And there’s a good reason for it. If you can finish one whole Johnny’s Roti at once you probably had a really rough night. So unless you did have an extremely rough night, one of Johnny’s rotis will be enough to provide an entire meal for a small family. This delicious snack is only available at a place that locals call Johnny’s Roti in Durban and unfortunately, has just one more branch in Mowbray.
South Africa is such a great country with so much delicious food to try. These are some of the best but there’s always something new to discover so get out there and get eating. What do you think about this list? Have you tried some awesome South African street food dishes I didn’t mention? Which one was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
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