Food and drink in South Africa comes in many different types, as you’d expect from a country with so many different cultural influences. From native Africa influences through to those brought to the country by various European settlers, nowhere on earth has the kinds of food and drink found in this country – that’s why it is referred to as “Rainbow Cuisine”! So, when you’re on your gap year in South Africa, don’t stick to McDonalds and Burger King – be adventurous and try some of the national dishes and specialities!
What Sort of Food is There?
As a modern country, South Africa offers everything you could possibly want in terms of food. Of course you’ll find the international chains – KFC, McDonalds etc – but is what you really want when you visit somewhere new? So, if it is a burger you are after, why not have one at a braai instead of in a generic restaurant…
What’s a braai, we hear you ask? Well, it is the South African equaivalent of a barbeque, with meats cooked over wood or charcoal. You’ll find braais all over South Africa – usually at parties and other social events – and they are always crammed with different bits of meat, from burgers through to boerewors (South African sausages). Most will also have a grand selection of side dishes too, such as salads and pap, which is similar to a thickened porridge. It is much tastier than it sounds! Oh, and there is usually lots and lots of alcohol as well.
You’ll also come across something called biltong while on your South African gap year, which is a favourite snack among many South Africans. It is basically dried meat (usually beef, but sometimes from more exotic species such as ostrich), which is then flavoured with various spices. It won’t fill you up at the end of a long day, but it will keep you going until you get home for a heartier meal! You’ll find it in most stores throughout the country.
There really isn’t the space to go over every single South African speciality on this page, but here are some more you are going to want to try while in the Rainbow Nation: bunny chows, bobotie, potjlekos, melktert and koeksisters. They all certainly beat a visit to a generic international restaurant (although Nandos is South African, so this is probably acceptable)!
When it comes to food prices, you won’t need to have a massive budget to eat well in South Africa, although prices are more expensive than other African countries. A meal in an inexpensive restaurant should cost you around 80R (£4.50/$7.30), and if you are cooking for yourself you’ll be able to buy ingredients for incredibly small amounts.
Drinking in South Africa
South Africa is one of the major world players in the wine market, and once you taste some of the wines they produce you’ll know exactly why! Wine is produced in huge quantities throughout the country, however the Winelands in the Western Cape are renowned for producing the highest quality. If you get the chance to sample some wine in this area, you should do it without hesitating! Some of the wines even put French wine to shame.
Beer is also incredibly popular in South Africa, especially when relaxing outside, possibly while at a braai with friends. Lager is brewed in the country and some of the more famous brands include Amstel and Castle, while Namibia’s Windhoek is also found liberally throughout the country. When it comes to bitter, the selection and availability isn’t as good, as the drink isn’t so popular with South Africans. There are local breweries in the country though and their brews can be found in some bars and restaurants. There’s also the home brew beer to mention, which generally tastes pretty bad to those who have never tasted it before – although it is far stronger than most lagers and bitters found in the country!
Alcohol is sold in various shops throughout the country, as well as in bars and restaurants. On Sundays shops are not allowed to sell alcohol at all, and it can only be bought in certain licensed restaurants and bars. Also, alcohol can’t generally be bought in shops after 6 o’clock on weekdays and 2’o clock on Saturdays.
If you have had a drink, don’t try to drive afterwards though, as South Africa has a strong policy on drink driving – those caught are likely to face a fine and can even be placed in jail for up to 6 years. While it is frowned upon in urban areas, drink driving is still common in more rural parts of the country.
Tipping is always a contentious topic in every country, as it is always hard to work out exactly how much to give! When tipping in South Africa, it is usually correct to add 10% to the bill, which can be paid in cash or card. Check to ensure that service has not already been added though, as you don’t want to end up tipping twice!