From chicken feet to tripe, we reveal South Africa’s favourite dishes

It’s the food that we are best known for.

It’s the food that we are best known for.

Published Nov 2, 2020


It’s the food that we are best known for. And with such a melting pot of cultures and traditions, we have done our best to share some of our favourite South African dishes.


Inhloko with jeqe and sambals. PICTURE: Ibhodwe LesZulu/Uber Eats

Cow or sheep’s head, traditionally, is eaten only by men as they are the head of the household. However, that was a long time ago. In modern-day South Africa, women also enjoy the delicacy and has become the most popular offal dish. You won’t find this in a restaurant. You will likely find it at taxi or bus rank, cooked by the women who sell their food there from their containers. It’s so delicious, even the most high-profile people, with access to a private chef, have been seen going to ranks to purchase their fix. We are seeing more chefs try to modernise the dish and make it aesthetically pleasing to our Instagram-obsessed eyes.


Tripe stew.

Whether its sheep or ox tripe, it’s a popular dish that is naturally not to everyone’s taste. The towel-like texture may be off-putting to some, while others die for it. It’s perfect on cold days and has to be served piping hot so that it doesn’t end up looking like liver pate. It goes really well with creamy samp or with jeqe and dombolo.


Porridge (umpokoqo) with Amasi is prepeared during the pre-heritage celebration in Atlantis. Picture: Cindy Waxa

There’s a big debate that always divides South Africans. Do you have amasi with sugar or without? While others think having it with sugar is sacrilegious, others say it offsets the sour milk nicely. Chef Zola Nene changed our perspective when she said that if you put sugar in it, it’s basically you treating it like dessert. She does, however, draw the line at those who put strawberries or other fruit in the dish. No matter how you make it, there are few meals as perfect as amasi with fine phuthu (or mphokoqo/krummelpap).


LEKKER: Melkkos

Like with all great traditional meals, the recipe for the perfect melkkos is passed down from generation to generation. The traditional Afrikaans dish is a creamy and milky meal, served with cinnamon sugar and butter.


Chicken feet. Picture: Supplied

Chicken feet – Maotwana, Amanqina enkukhu, Runaways or Walkie Talkies – is a loved dish with many names. Many South African cultures enjoy Chicken feet – stewed, fried or braai'd, and it can also be enjoyed as a snack.


Mealie Rice Kitcheri PICTURE: PassingItOn.coza

The one dish I absolutely love is my mom’s mealie rice with dried fish chutney. Indians love throwing in boiled eggs to augment dishes like this. And my mom would do just that when preparing this meal. The mealie rice can be cooked as is or spiced up with a bit of turmeric for colour. And the chutney, which is generally very spicy, is accompanied by pieces of salted dried fish, the dish is topped off with boiled eggs (halved) and garnished with freshly chopped coriander.


Warme Worsie Smoortjie Picture: Michelle Parkin (Cape, Curry and Koesisters)

This Cape Town favourite is also known as “Penny polonies” or, as my mom used to say, “Oulap-worsies”, which meant it cost a penny or one cent. A very cheap staple that to this day is a go-to quick meal.


TRADITIONAL dishes are known to be seasoned with history. It is the same for the traditional African classics which are known to the African nations as umqombothi (traditional beer), gemere (ginger beer), and pineapple beer.


Traditional beer has always been prepared for purposes where there are celebrations, funerals, or when a family needs to get in touch with their ancestors. This beer is made from maize, maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast, and water and takes a couple of days to be ready, due to the fermentation process. Traditionally, it is brewed in a special hut that is not completely thatched so smoke can escape and the beer gets enough oxygen to ferment.


Lydia Masoleng, left, owner of Malebo's Bed and Breakfast in Graceland, Kayelitsha, treats Ravi Nadasen, general manager of the Cullinan Hotel in Cape Town, to her traditional welcome of home-made- cookies and ginger beer. Southern Sun Hotels is helping her refurbish her B&B. Business Report. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams.

Ginger beer, which is also known as gemmerbier, can be made into a flavoured soft drink or alcohol or non-alcohol beverage. It is made from a blend of ginger, water, and sugar that’s fermented with yeast, then carbonated and bottled.


Pineapple beer is a drink made with fresh ripe pineapple and lime for a healthy, home remedy drink. As South Africa went into lockdown in March, the nation became temporarily obsessed with making beer at home which led to the rise of the pineapple beer. It was by far the most popular, and easy to replicate drink at home. It is a refreshing drink and is non-alcoholic if consumed relatively soon after making, but can pack a punch if left to ferment longer.

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