Biltong is possibly one of the most famous foods in South Africa and the most versatile snack for those who don’t shy away from some pure meaty goodness. It is meat cured in marinade and spices and presented in a huge variety of ways – dried sausage, fillet slices, long strings of spicy meats, you name it. It is made from almost any meat you can think of: along with the usual beef and even chicken, you can find crocodile, ostrich, springbok, kudu and a huge variety of other game.
I would recommend pairing it with the second thing you absolutely must try in South Africa – a LOT of it.
South Africa is well known as the homeland of some of the best wines in the world. I would really recommend trying the biltong and wine pairing experiences at the Durbanville Hills Wine estate: some of my favourites were Rhinofields Pinotage with kudu biltong, a mild-tasting game meat with a red wine that taste a bit like a Pinot Noir, and Durbanville Hills Bastion with beef chutney sticks, a much more spicy biltong with a slightly heavier, spicier wine to go with it.
You can read more about wine tastings in the Cape region over here.
Mebos is another preserved food which is very easy to take with you as a snack on a hike or a long safari trip. It is made from compressed dried fruit with added sugar (which is a bit overkill, if you ask me, but it certainly gives you that sugar hit!).
The best known brand is Montagu and it makes mebos in a variety of different shapes and sizes, but my favourites were the mango and guava rolls – essentially long sheets of dried fruit rolled up, which you can unravel as you eat your way through.
4. Bunny chow
Bunny chow has recently come to London, with a chain opening some stores in Soho and Shoreditch, but you will only get the real thing in South Africa. It is a curry, often made from mutton, but sometimes also chicken, which comes inside a hollowed out bread and is eaten by ripping off bits of bread and using it to pick up the meat and the sauce. Messy, very bad for you, but extremely filling and tasty!
I tried mine in Durban, which is famous for its curries, but it should be just as easy to find in Cape Town.
I actually discovered Amarula on a flight to New York a couple of months before I went to South Africa, but it is originally South African and an absolutely fantastic after dinner drink or aperitif. It tastes and looks a bit like Baileys, but is a lot fruitier as it is made from the African marula fruit and mixed with fresh cream. Simply delicious on the rocks!