Coming from a country that prides itself on its vegetarian cuisine and a state that has taken great pains to ban beef, South Africa to me seems like a meat-lovers paradise. The forbidden land where meat is celebrated and eaten with much relish. The emphasis in their local food is of course meat but beef in particular and so much so that some of their most popular dishes are either beef or some other meat-inspired ones.
Take for example, the famed South African boerewors. It is their locally-made sausage but most of the time it's made with beef instead of pork. They are much fatter and heavier and as I've noticed staple items on breakfast buffets and menus. They're also ideal for a barbeque or a quick snack. These delicious sausages are available at any local supermarket and on some bar menus as a snack.
South Africa's famous pastime seems to be the Braii. This is their version of a barbecue but if you call it one locals get very upset and insist it isn't and it's a braii! They go on to explain that it's where you grill meat on an open flame, drink alcohol and enjoy time with your family or friends, make some salads of accompaniments for the grilled meat and generally enjoy yourself and have a good time. So you see, they're right, it's not a barbecue at all! Some of the best beef steaks I've eaten in the country were made at a friend's house during a braii and I have to hand it to them, they really know how to cook a chunk of beef.
You could be at a bar enjoying a drink or at home watching a movie and the perfect snack for either occasion is Biltong. The South African version of beef jerky but once again if you say that to a local it infuriates them. They just do not like any comparisons and are so proud of their meat filled food. Biltong is cured meats, mostly beef but could be any other meat and it can get a bit dry or chewy but it's tasty and great to nibble on. One of the best places to sample biltong is at The Griffin, a beautiful bar that specialises in delicious burgers and locally crafted beers. It's also available at any local supermarket but ideal to try it while drinking beer in a pub.
Such love for beef that their National Dish or the one that is most popular is made with beef mince, egg, spices and a whole lot of love. Bobotie is a wonderful mince almost like a Sheppard's pie but served without any potatoes, has cured beef and has an egg and milk that forms a golden-ish layer on top once baked. Bobotie is on almost every African menu but a great place to try it is at Gold - An African themed restaurant in Cape Town that serves a 14 course menu. The Bobotie there is delicious.
Even the Durban-style 'samosas' are filled with minced beef and peas making them a very different from what you usually expect. Apart from an Indian family in Durban cooking them for you, hop into the Victoria Street shopping area and buy some hot and fresh from a kiosk there. It's perfect with a can of local ginger flavoured beer.
No matter where you go, you'll have an animal on your plate in some form and that my friends is really eating local.
Photo credit: Roxanne Bamboat
Follow her @ The Tiny Taster
Better known as the Tiny Taster, Roxanne is an internationally respected blogger and expert on the Mumbai food scene. She has hosted many events, including the Upper Crust Food & Wine Show and travels the world, sharing her knowledge and gaining more experience.