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Take your taste buds on a South African self-drive vacation

You’ll have more on your plate than a full itinerary when taking a road trip through South Africa. And we’ll help you to pick your favourites on the menu.

Everyone has to eat. But if you are one of those I-eat-because-I-must kind of people, or a that-looks-delicious-I-want-to-stuff-it-in-my-face kind of people, the wide variety of snacks and meals available in South Africa will not just fill your biological fuel tank, it will surprise and tempt you to try just about anything.

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International cuisine is widely available in South Africa.

If you prefer a global smorgasbord while on vacation, you’re likely to find pizzerias, trattorias and even bistros in most towns, while the larger centres serve up just about any cuisine imaginable – from French to Asian, Greek to north African, Italian to fusions of all of the above and more.

Even if you prefer a taste of home while on your South African adventure, international fast food outlets like McDonald’s, KFC, Dominoes and Burger King are plentiful throughout the country. But, if you are really on an adventure, why not step out of your culinary comfort zone and try some of the local favourites?

Like any other country, South Africa boasts its own, unique cuisine. A conglomeration of cultures has created a menu of delights. Heavenly herbs from the indigenous heritage, tasty techniques from the colonial history and sumptuous spices from the Malay and Oriental quarters all come together to create a melting pot of the most delicious recipes devisable.

There's nothing like a South African braai!

There’s nothing like a South African braai!

South Africans like to cook on a grid over the coals of an open fire – we call this method to ‘braai’ (for more colourful South Africanisms and their meanings, click here). But it is so much more than your average verb. A South African ‘braai’ (see, now it’s a noun), is a social event. First you build and light the fire. While it is acceptable to use a charcoal-fuelled kettle grill in very rare circumstances, it is universally understood that a wood fire is better. While the fire is burning, everyone who attends the ‘braai’ stand or sit around the fire with an ice cold drink (or some red wine in winter – yes, we ‘braai’ in winter), and chats. Stories and jokes are told, bonds are created and strengthened and, although the point is creating coals from a burnt fire, more wood is fed into the blaze before the guests are fed.

A multitude of foods can be prepared on the ‘braai’. Traditionally some kind of marinated or prepared meat is grilled over the open coals – chicken, pork, beef, lamb or mutton and even seafood. But we also ‘braai’ our corn, mushrooms, and other vegetables. A big favourite at many a South African ‘braai’ is a sandwich of tomato, cheese and onion, lightly toasted on the grill until the tomato and onion is just tender and the cheese is an oozy, melted mouthful of moreish-ness.

We often cook in pots at a ‘braai’. ‘Potjiekos’, literally translated to pot food, is any variant of stew cooked in a cast iron pot over the coals. These pots are easily recognised by their potbellies and three legs. Flat bottomed pots are even used to cook ‘potbrood’ or pot bread.

'Pampoenkoekies' are pumpkin dumplings smothered in a caramel sauce... Yum!

‘Pampoenkoekies’ are pumpkin dumplings smothered in a caramel sauce… Yum!

Moving away from the fires and back into the kitchen, a popular cuisine is called ‘boerekos’, literally translated to farmers’ food. Contrary to what you might expect, this is usually a heavy meal of roasted meats and potatoes with stewed vegetables like green beans and pepper, and rice. Sweet pumpkin dumplings are cooked in a cinnamon infused caramel sauce, white rice soaks rich gravies and steamed broccoli and cauliflower are baked in a cheese sauce. Thank goodness for the green salad that is usually served on the side!

South Africans also love our stews and curries, but for food on the move you can’t go wrong with a bunny chow. A hollowed-out white bread is the perfect vessel for a steamy, spicy curry on the go! And speaking of food on the go… how about a walky-talkie? Can you guess what this would be? A dish of chicken feet and -heads. And while we’re venturing into territories of more adventurous tastes, why not try a smiley? I thought you’d like some braised and grilled sheep heads. You might even find some dried Mopani worms or grilled crickets, if you really wanted to. Don’t worry though, dishes like walky-talkies, smileys and insects are not the usual dinnertime staples. They’re more of a once-off dare for your taste buds.

If you have more of a sweet tooth, South Africa has no shortage of delicious desserts. Cakes, tarts, bakes, mousses, frozen desserts and sauces – we’ve taken the best of international influences and, over the years, have made them our own. Like the ‘koeksister’ (cake sister). This doughnut is formed by plaiting three strips before it is deep fried and dipped in a ginger and orange syrup.

'Melktert', or milktart, is a much loved traditional South African specialty.

‘Melktert’, or milktart, is a much loved traditional South African specialty.

You don’t get much more South African than a ‘koeksister’ – other than a milktart. This baked custard in a flaky crust is the quintessential South African treat and the one dish you must try on your self-drive South African adventure. In fact, why not try making your own by following this recipe. Bake it, enjoy it, and then come to South Africa to taste the difference…

There are many, many, many more delicious and interesting dishes and snacks to try in South Africa, so visit www.goselfdrive.co.za now to start planning your self-drive holiday. We’ll help you by suggesting and arranging your accommodation, itinerary and traveling options – suited to your unique needs and budget.

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