6 South African Foods that Look Delicious

I actually did this post for my personal blog, but I thought you study abroad travelers might be interested in picking up the real deal in South Africa if you get a chance! Let me know how they hold up to expectations!

“Swellendam Lake, South Africa” by Mad-Margaret

“South Africa never leaves one indifferent. Its history, its population, its landscapes and cultures – all speak to the visitor, to the student, to the friend of Africa.”

~ Tariq Ramadan

I still remember the first time I actively realized South Africa was a country in it’s own right.  Growing up in a small rural Mid-western town, my education definitely was more European focused than African.  What little I knew of South Africa was limited to the connection between a small city named Cape Town and the explorers of the 17- and 1800s.  

Then, my freshman year of college, I met the sweetest young man studying abroad from South Africa and attending my honor’s courses.  He was such a kind student, hard working, and seriously brilliant.  College was the first time I really had a chance to talk with foreigners and people from the far-off countries I had previously only dreamed about.  There was something exotic and exciting each time I could say: Voila! I have now spoken with a person from ____________ country!

He used to tell me about his country, describing the beautiful places he was homesick for and the culture he would have loved to share. His stories permanently marked South Africa on my list of “Someday to visit places.” 

After doing some research on the country, I’ve discovered that, in addition to the locations he mentioned, I’m kinda looking forwards to the food as well 🙂  If you are going to visit a new country, it’s pretty much required that you try out their best dishes and the following 6 are a must-try for me!  

If you get a chance to travel or study in South Africa, let me know how the local versions taste! 🙂

1. Boerewors

This past 4th of July, my family BBQ’d pork steaks and hot dogs on the grill.  In South Africa, they call this “Braaing” and they prefer to throw Boerewors on the grills.  Boerewors are the South African version of Polish Sausage — it is  a varying mixture of meat (primarily beef with lamb and/or pork) and spices.  According to my friend, the dish is traditionally crafted from scratch; no running to the store and picking up a package. It takes work and time, but it’s well worth the effort!  

If you’re interested in making your own, I found a recipe that looks promising here on Food.com.

2. Bobotie

Bobotie is a baked egg-custard dish with minced meat, fruits, and spices inside, and I’ve got to say I’m desperate to try it out. The pictures all just look so good!  Made of Beef or Lamb combined with various dried fruits (Apricot, Dates, Raisins, etc.), Indianesque spices, and topped with an egg-based sauce, the dish is very popular in South Africa. And no Wonder!  I love anything vaguely cassarole-ish, and they say this is a great variety.

Good-Looking Recipe available from Nigella

3. Koeksisters

I’m picturing something “Spike Cake” or “Lemon Cake” tasting (which I like anyway), but they say these are actually better.  It probably depends upon the recipe (some are more cinnamon-based, some are more ginger-based, others thrown in lemon with a dash of vanilla), but these little treats are supposed to be the bomb-diggity.  Most of the recipes I’ve found show a cake-based foundation, fried to perfection and then topped with some sort of sweet glaze or sauce.  They remind me of the Twists our bakery sells here in China 🙂  

Best-looking Recipe I found was on Food.com, but there are some others here and here

4. Potjiekos

Translating as “Pot Food”, Potjiekos sounds like something my grandmother and mom would love to make. They are always making the famous “Blessing Vegetable Soup” out of whatever vegetables are in the cabinet on a cool fall day.  Potjiekos sounds remarkably similar.  In the olden days, South Africans cooked over the fire in a Potjie (Cast Iron Pot), making delicious stew recipes that would descend through the ages.  Unlike my grandmother’s soups though, this fire was always outside! The food is added in via layers ~ Meat first then layers of different vegetables in order of the time it takes to cook them.  Pumpkin, Sweet Potatoes, Onion, Garlic, Carrots, Tomatoes, Broccoli, any veggies you want to throw in.  The result is a homey kind of stew that sounds soooo good!

Find out more about the process and recipes here at Potjiekos World

5. Chakalaka

I’m going to confess that half the attraction for this dish is the name ~ “Chakalaka” just sounds pretty awesome! 🙂  The dish itself changes a bit depending on the recipe, some are more of a salsa consistency while others look somewhat like a chili.  Chakalaka is not actually a dish in and of itself, rather it is a sauce or relish added to meats, curry, bread, etc. as a garnish to spice up the flavor.  I know some people who add it to chicken and say it’s the best for adding a touch of jazz to the taste!  Most recipes, though not all, include beans, onion, garlic, ginger, curry/chili powder, tomatoes, corn, peppers carrots, and other vegetables.  Mmm-mmm Good!

I found a pretty yummy-sounding recipe here on Food Network UK that I think I might try soon.

6. Melktert

Of course I haven’t forgotten dessert, and these Melkterts look like a must-try.  In fact, we’re going to test out the recipe below this month at my family’s fish fry.  It’s an egg-custard like pastry, but with a uniquely South African touch to an originally Portuguese concept.  The crust is made and the custard either baked within or added just before serving.  Apparently, it’s more milk than egg and if you add cinnamon to the milk first it is even better.  The custard has a buttery, sweet taste and you can add cinnamon and sugar on top.  I can’t wait to try it!

I’m combining two recipes from here and here.

 

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“Off the beaten path: ‘Huge opportunities’ stem from African study abroad programs”

 

“Off the beaten path: ‘Huge opportunities’ stem from African study abroad programs”

by Natalie Marshall via “USA TODAY

When college students search for study abroad sites, sub-Saharan Africa is not usually among the top contenders for possible host regions. According to a report by the Institute of International Education, about 12,859 students studied in sub-Saharan Africa during the 2011-2012 academic year, while about 151,143 studied in Europe that same year.

However, while students are not necessarily flocking to African study abroad sites, many students who have studied on the African continent have found their experiences to be very beneficial.

Zach Sturiale, a sophomore at Arcadia University, says that he was exposed firsthand to numerous issues during his time abroad. He studied in Cape Town, South Africa during his fall 2014 semester.

“South Africa is by far one of the most interesting countries in the world due to its past and current political, economic and social climate,” says Sturiale.

Most of all, he says he was exposed to the inequality that remains after the history of apartheid in South Africa.

“Studying in Cape Town made inequality strikingly apparent to me. I saw some of the largest examples of wealth I have ever seen in my life, but also saw the most tremendous examples of poverty I have ever seen in my life.”

Zach Sturiale '17 takes a break from sandboarding in South Africa (Photo courtesy of Sturiale)

Anna Wagman, a junior at Dickinson College, agrees that students can learn a lot from studying abroad in African countries. After studying in Madagascar, Tanzania and South Africa, she found that her study abroad sites offered numerous learning opportunities.

“Studying in a culturally disparate country is a huge opportunity for personal and academic growth, and great stories,” she says.

That being said, studying in developing countries often comes with challenges that students do not usually experience in more traditional study abroad sites.

Wagman says, “It’s always nerve-wracking to go somewhere so different from what you’re used to, but it was always really satisfying to push myself like that. Sometimes we had some really difficult living conditions . . . but I know the shared discomfort of these experiences made me really close with everyone in my group.”

Jessica Hawk, a senior at New York University, agrees that the challenges she experienced while studying abroad in Ghana were worth it in the end.

“There [were] days where I had to block my friends — who were studying in Florence — on Facebook so I couldn’t see the lavish lives they lived with great food,” she says. “But I gained local friends — who I now consider my family — that others sites may not offer. Sometimes water wouldn’t turn on or the lights would go out, but it was all really worth it.”

Jessica Hawk '15 walks across one of the many treetop canopies at Kakum National Park in Ghana. (Photo courtesy of Hawk)

For Hawk, the challenges continued after she returned to the United States, as people from home did not fully comprehend her experiences in Ghana.

“I hated it when someone [from home] would introduce me as the person that studied in ‘Africa’ and everyone treated me like I was brave. It was a weird concept to think about. I wasn’t brave for living there. I ate, worked out, I went out at night. Life was pretty normal,” she says.

Despite some challenges, students generally hold fond memories from their study abroad experiences around Africa.

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