Recently, Cape Town has become a metropolis for tourism. It’s a beloved city that offers oceanic and mountain views, lovely human beings, and a surplus of baboons. For many, Cape Town is most memorable for creating delicious, affordable, and diverse food.
Here’s a list of foods and drinks that I consumed on a recent trip to Cape Town. They epitomize the city’s eclectic cuisine. Make Cape Town your next travel destination, and you (and your stomach) will be introduced to new and satisfying food—food that you can’t help but smuggle back home with you.
1. Pickled Fish
The sweet, curried flavor of pickled fish is familiar to all Capetonians. Pickled fish was introduced to the city by its Cape Malay population (an ethnic group in Cape Town that includes almost 200,000 people). Although pickled fish is usually enjoyed as an Easter dish, you can still enjoy its unique flavor any other day either by buying a jar of it at any grocery store, or by making it yourself. Just serve atop buttered bread or with curried yogurt and fresh coriander.
Boerewors is a more flavorful, spiced version of your usual sausage and is the star meat at every braai you attend. For ultimate boerewors satisfaction, heap on the caramelized onions and chutney then serve it on a buttered bun (boerewors rolls are superior to hot dogs). If you eat it after five glasses of wine, you will truly experience your first Cape Town foodgasm.
No one parties like a South African parties. And no one barbecues like a South African barbecues. Actually, no one barbecues at all. They braai.
A braai is the South African version of a barbecue. It’s widely recognized and widely celebrated. I would even consider it their national sport. A braai can take place on a casual weekend or during a celebratory birthday, basically any occasion that calls for a large amount of meat (especially boerewors) and socializing. No one will go hungry and no one will be sober.
The flake is melty, chocolatey, and true to its name (part of the challenge is keeping the chocolate from falling into your lap).
After you taste this Cadbury treat, you will curse every Hershey product for their artificial existence. Flakes emphasize chocolate-y flavor over sugary sweetness, something I think most American chocolates fail at.
Sure, you can eat the flake a la carte. But I recommend going to any Cape Town ice cream shop and ordering the 99 flake, an ice cream cone with a flake nestled inside.
In Cape Town, wine is cheap and plentiful at most restaurants. But to really enjoy wine like never before, you should take advantage of Cape Town’s numerous wine farms. Take a quick drive away from the city to the sprawling green fields of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhouk, the Cape Winelands. The drive and views are unmatched, especially as you sip your affordable Pinotage.
The wine farms are close to each other, so you can even go wine farm hopping. But by the end it might be closer to wine stumbling. Just make sure to use this trick to maximize the flavor and entire experience of your wine tasting.
Biltong is a dried, cured meat that is similar to beef jerky, but differs in its diverse selection. You have your usual chicken and beef, but there’s also shark, game (springbok, wildebeest), and ostrich. Savory and satisfying, biltong is the perfect South African snack.
7. Indian Food
Cape Town is a conglomerate of many different cultures that provide a constant stream of eclectic flavors to citizens and tourists alike. Indian food is no exception. No matter where you go, whether to an authentic Indian restaurant or a piano cocktail bar, you can find a satisfying butter chicken masala.
But if you’re a little too bloated from taking part in all of Cape Town’s satisfying food, you can stay in and make you own healthy butter chicken masala.
8. Creamed Spinach and Butternut
Creamed spinach and butternut is the widely recognized mother of side dishes in South Africa. Whenever I went to a restaurant and ordered side vegetables, I expected limp lettuce and the occasional cherry tomato—the sad excuse of a side dish I know from America. Instead, most restaurants provided warm butternut and creamed spinach, reminiscent of a healthier version of Thanksgiving dinner. It’s also available at most grocery stores in Cape Town, microwavable and ready for consumption whenever the cravings hit.
Rusk is the biscotti’s more satisfying and accomplished cousin. It is served alongside your morning coffee or tea, and can be enjoyed as a meal or a snack. Just dip the thick, twice-baked biscuit in any warm beverage to soften it and then bite in.
10. Malva Pudding
Although I’m pretty sure malva pudding is basically sugar, syrup and apricots (for health benefits of course), this warm, caramelized dessert is one of my favorite parts of traveling to Cape Town. One of my favorite parts of existing as a human being even. It’s so simple yet so comforting.
Throw away the hackneyed chocolate cake. Serve yourself a heaping scoop of this pudding along with some cold vanilla custard.
11. Meat Pies
Meat pies’ flavors are extensive and exotic: steak and kidney, pepper steak, chicken and mushroom, even ostrich. And because the pies comes in small, handheld form, you can consume them anywhere. At the beach? On a wild safari? Running away from a hungry baboon? Check. Check. Check.
12. Fish and Chips
Cape Town is basically the mother of bays. And when you find a bay, you can be sure there is an authentic fish and chips place hidden right around the corner or down on the docks.
Kalky’s (located in Kalk Bay) is a local fish and chips spot. My personal favorite, it offers the best fried Hoke in the city, along with the complimentary fries. Fish and chips are more successful than any cup of coffee to warm you up on a windy winter day.
13. Tea and Scones
In America, I’ve found the scones are usually served dry and a la carte—a dull, incomplete version of what could be a masterpiece. Travel to Cape Town for the completed version. To me, a real scone is warm and garnished with plenty of raspberry jam and homemade whipped cream. And no scone is complete without a cup of hot Rooibos tea, Cape Town’s staple tea which originates in South Africa (you’ll never go back to English Breakfast.) But if you are unable to visit Cape Town, you can make your own scones.