Rainbow Cuisine in South Africa
South African cuisine is sometimes referred to as “Rainbow cruisine”. The wide variety of different foods available can sometimes be overwhelming. From the deliciously diverse flavours of South Africa’s indigenous and multi-cultural cuisine to culinary specialities from all over the world.
The cuisine in South Africa has had a variety of multicultural sources, from the cookery practised by indigenous people (such as the Khoisan, Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho speaking people), to the settler cookery introduced during the colonial period by people of Dutch and British descent and their slaves and servants (this includes the cuisine of the Cape Malay people, which has many characteristics of Malaysia and Java), and influences from neighbouring colonial cultures such as Portuguese Mozambique.
Man’s need for fresh food was the main reason for the colonization of South Africa, when in 1652 the Cape was used as a refreshment station for passing VOC sailing ships on their long and dangerous journey around the Cape of good Hope. The early settlers in the Cape were producing a variety of European vegetables and fruit. Over the years other cultures like the Malay slaves, the French Huguenots, the Indians, the British and many others from all over the world, have been introducing and adding their culinary preferences. Because of the proximity of former Portuguese colonies Mozambique and Angola to South Africa, Portuguese cuisine made considerable impact in the South African kitchen, predominantly through the use of hot and spicy chilli-based “peri-peri” seasoning, next to garlic, onions, bay leaves, fresh coriander, paprika and red sweet peppers.
They all go extremely well with “braais” (barbecues). From the Mozambique border in the East right around to the Namibian border in the west, South Africa’s coastline is rich in seafood such as kingklip, snoek (sea-pike), red roman, hake, cod, sole and pilchards to name but a few. Other delicacies from the sea include “perlemoen” (abalone), oysters, mussels, calamari, shrimps and spiny rock lobster called crayfish in South Africa.
Like the traditional “braai” (barbecue), “Potjiekos” (pot food) and Biltong are very much a shared taste between all South Africa’s cultures. Right through the country’s history, from the days of the Khoi San and the days of the southward Bantu migration to the days of the Great Trek and the Anglo / Boer wars, people were constantly on the move. For the more daring diner, South Africa offers culinary challenges from crocodile sirloins to fried caterpillars to sheep heads. All three are actually quite yummy. For the not-quite so brave, there are many indigenous delicacies such as biltong (dried, salted meat), bobotie (a much-improved version of Shepherd’s pie) and boerewors (hand-made farm sausages, grilled on an open flame).
With so many different cuisines that have been introduced to South Africa over the years and that have been adapted to become traditional and interesting South African recipes, one can truly call our country a rainbow nation in its culture and people, but also in its food. There is plenty to enjoy on your visit, so make sure you try as much as you can!