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Must Try Foods in Southern Africa – My Complete List

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I have travelled to a few countries now in Africa and there are some must try foods in Southern Africa that would be criminal if you ignored them. I have been lucky enough to be unofficially declared the only Australian to learn to surf in Morocco, I mean that is self-titled but surely not many other Aussies have waited until Morocco, right? I have travelled around Egypt with TravelTalk and seen the amazing history this stunning country has on offer, unfortunately, I still have no idea how they made the Pyramids though. As well as this I have completed an amazing safari from Cape Town, South Africa to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe crossing through 4 countries in total. This was a trip of a lifetime and today I want to talk about the amazing African food I come across while doing this trip and the ones I believe are must try foods in Southern Africa.

Must Try Foods in Southern Africa

If you have seen my IG @backpackandfork you would be well aware by now I love to eat, it is one of my highlights of travelling and I’m fortunate enough to be able to enjoy most local dishes in areas I travel without getting too sick. This is a godsend for places like Bali, Thailand and African countries trust me.

If you haven’t yet checked out @backpackandfork take the time now to connect with me and let me know your favourite meal you have enjoyed while travelling.

Below is a list of the must try foods in Southern Africa I enjoyed while completing my safari from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. Most of these meals were cooked by an amazingly talented chef by the name of Ben, to this day I have no idea how he managed it to be honest.

Must try foods in Southern Africa:

Pap meal – with hands

The first one on the must try foods in Southern Africa list is a traditional African dish that is really fun to eat. Especially if you have a few locals with you or close by that can demonstrate exactly how it is done. If you don’t handle eating with your hands very well then this is certainly not the dish for you.

Pap is an African dish made up of ground down maize that is made into a porridge/polenta type texture. It is a sticky substance that is usually found on your plate with either a mixed vegetable dish or a meat and vegetable combination.  

From here you use your hands to combine elements on your plate together on mouthful size pieces and enjoy. It can be messy but is mostly a fun and interesting dish. The Pap itself lacks a great deal of flavour but when mixed with the side dishes on your plate it really is an enjoyable dish.

Biltong

Biltong or Jerky as I mostly knew it as before this trip, is an African favourite. They make almost anything into Biltong as I found out when I found Biltong tuna, FYI Biltong Tuna is not on my must try foods in Southern Africa.

To put it plain and simple it is meat that has been hung out and dried. It is like an adult version of the best chewing gum ever as it keeps producing flavour after every bite you have. It is simply the meat dried or can also have a flavouring or rub over it as well. All are great options.

While there I tried various varieties that certainly didn’t disappoint, all except maybe the fish one that I mentioned a little early. Ben wasn’t responsible for making this himself but don’t worry there will be no shortage of it during your time in Southern Africa and was a clear favourite of mine when it comes to must try foods in Southern Africa.

Zebra

OK don’t judge me too hard here. I know the cute Zebra won’t probably be the first dish you seek out when in Africa, but if you let yourself experience it then you will find it is an impressive and tender tasting meat.

I had a steak of Zebra as part of a mixed grill and all I can say is it’s certainly worth it. In the end, Zebra shouldn’t be thought of any differently to any other meat and the more I travelled about the more I saw that these guys are in no major danger of becoming a threatened species.

The zebra itself comes just like any other piece of steak you can imagine enjoying at a restaurant. It had a seasoning but no sauce and let the real flavour and softness of the meat shine through. It was best-cooked medium and that is how I opted to have mine.

I travel to experience how other countries and cultures live so if they eat this then I find it rude not to at least sample what they are offering. I realise this is a personal choice and as such respect the right that others will opt to avoid this while travelling. If you can at least try this member of my must try foods in Southern Africa, you might be surprised.

Mixed grill southern african style is one of my must try foods in Southern Africa
A mixed grill Southern Africa style. This as one of the best dishes I brought while on the hunt for the must try foods in Southern Africa.

Oryx, Springbok & Kudu

While obviously all different animals, I have put these guys all under the one banner. I tried all separately during my travels, but I think if you try one you will get a general idea.

I will probably get told of my error here, but they are all a little gamey and remind me of a venison deer type flavour. Again, you will get sick of seeing these guys out of your transport window after a couple of days, they are literally everywhere.

Warthog

This is another gamey meat made the must try foods in Southern Africa, I enjoyed this in both sausage and steak form from Ben’s camp kitchen during the safari. It’s coarse meat that actually reminds me of nothing like the pork taste I was expecting.

I liked the sausages the best and with a side serving of mashed potatoes or better still pap, it was fantastic. Many of the females on the safari found the warthog too coarse and gamey for their liking, I think it was possibly the idea of eating the funny Lion’s King character Pumbaa that really worried them. It wasn’t an issue though as it just meant the tour guides and myself got to enjoy a little extra, I didn’t complain at all.

Bunny Chow

This is a really strange dish at first but if you give it the chance it really is quite tasty. For me it was never going to be an issue, I love a good curry and finishing any saucy meal with some bread to clean the plate was something ingrained in me from my father many years ago, much to my mother’s disapproval.

Bunny Chow is basically a bread loaf harrowed out and made to form a bread bowl that is then filled with an Indian style curry. The flavour of the curry and the shape of the bread vary from destination to destination, but you get a general idea.

Bobotie

This amazing African food dish is a favourite in South Africa which makes it a must try foods in Southern Africa of course. It is made up of spiced ground or minced meat with an egg topping. Think a lasagne that is less saucy and without the pastry.

The meat to use is generally either lamb or beef but this can be substituted with a range of different options including pork. It is spiced and accompanied with nuts, dried fruits and some vegetables like celery. The egg topping is made from hard-boiled eggs, combined with milk and milk-soaked bread on some occasions. Cooked in the oven then served with rice or a simple side dish.

Wine

All these amazing African foods would be almost pointless if you couldn’t wash down each mouthful with some amazing liquid. Lucky for you parts of Africa have you covered with that as well.

One of the stunning wineries in South Africa
One of the stunning wineries in South Africa

South America is certainly a place that is well known for its wine regions and rightfully so. I did a trip out to Stellenbosch during my stay in Cape Town and loved the area. The wine tours are run well, you will get spoilt with wines from various vineyards in the area. You can look at some tour options now.

Find blogs on my time in Cape Town.

I don’t remember tasting a wine I didn’t like throughout the day I can’t be completely sure my tastebuds were 100% on point towards the end of the day though as you have the chance to try a LOT of wine.

Umqombothi

This was probably the most interesting and traditional items on my list of must try foods in Southern Africa, it certainly was on of mine that I tried during my time in Africa. I enjoyed (sort of) this while doing a Township Tour to one of the neighbouring towns just outside of Cape Town.

It is basically their homemade beer, yes liquids have made this list as well, the wine has already been mentioned above loud and proud.

Umqombothi is made from maize, maize malt, sorghum malt, and water as well as a wild native yeast to produce the alcohol. It is left to ferment overnight before being served in what I can only describe as old paint tins. Word of warning this stuff is thick, interesting and strong so just a few sips are generally all they allow you to enjoy. That was probably enough for me anyway though.

DSC 4748

Umqombothi being carefully poured into its glass (paint tin) ready for me and the rest of the safari group to sample.

There you have it, a list of some of the must try foods in Southern Africa I tasted while on Safari. I would encourage you to try all the local foods offered whenever you are travelling the world as a sign of respect and if you have come across any strange dish please share your experiences by commenting in the section below.

Another strange eating experience of mine recently was having a local horse burger with my brother in Sicily much to my fathers and brother’s wife’s disgust. But that is a story for another time.

If you are looking to head to Africa and travel this awesome continent for yourself then have an amazing time, it is still one of my favourite areas I have been too.

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Foods in Southern Africa

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Happy Travels, Brodie

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