“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, is a saying that sums up the practice of following local customs when you’re in a new country. South Africa is no exception. It’s known for its outdoor fun, as well as its fantastic variety of cuisine, made up of flavours from around the globe, and don’t let me get started on South African desserts!

If you’ve got foreign friends arriving over the festive season, don’t take the traditional safe route of feeding them fish and chips or burgers for lunch. Instead, make sure you take them out to try one, or all, of the below cuisines to truly get a feel for our rainbow nation.

1. Potjiekos

Potjiekos (literally: small pot food), consists of a stew which is cooked in a small, cast-iron pot that is usually placed on a braai grid or suspended over an open flame. There is usually plenty of socialising done around the flames as the food cooks for several hours. The potjies can vary from white and red meats, to vegetarian only options. Try one at BOER’geoisie in Menlo Park, Pretoria.

2.  Boerewors

Boerewors (literally: Afrikaner’s meat), is a local favourite and never fails to disappoint visitors. It is made by mixing mince-meat with a variety of spices, and it appears as a long sausage-like coil of meat which is then cooked in an oven, or more commonly, over an open flame at a braai. You’ll often find boerewors rolls served with chips from street vendors around the country.

Bunny chow with garnish. By The Aimless Cook (Flickr)

3. Bunny Chow

Despite its name, no bunnies are harmed in the making of this dish, which is one of the top ones to try if you’re in KwaZulu-Natal. It’s made by hollowing out a loaf of bread (non-sliced) that is then filled with either curry or stew. Try one at CT Curries in Umkomaas, Durban.

4.  Pap

Pap is a staple for many families, with a comparable consistency to polenta. It’s made from mielie-meal, and served as a rather stiff porridge at breakfast with gravy, though it also makes a regular appearance at evening braais. Try some at Janicky’s Restaurant and Pub in Atteridgeville, Pretoria.

5.  Cape Malay Curries

The Cape Malay population has made vast contributions to South African food, with their mouth-watering curries being particularly popular in winter. These are created from a variety of spices, meats, and bases, which can often have a fruity, savoury, and spicy flavour all at once. Get one at Zorina’s restaurant in Long Street, Cape Town.

6.  Frikkadel

Similar to meatballs, Frikkadels are the flavour-filled South African alternatives to your usual meat clump. They’re created from meat rolled with onion, eggs, vinegar, bread, and spices, and are usually oven-baked but can also be served deep-fried. Enjoy one at Hemelhuijs in the City Bowl, Cape Town.

A vetkoek with mince. By NJR ZA (Creative Commons)7.  Vetkoek

Not one for those watching the waistline, a vetkoek (translates to fat cake) is a piece of dough that is deep-fried, and stuffed with almost anything. Savoury ones are usually filled with meat and some vegetables, while dessert types are filled with syrup. Try one at Vetkoek Paleis in Roodepoort, Johannesburg.

8.  Baboetie

This dish is another Cape Malay addition to the cuisine, and is predominantly served as a mince dish, with an egg-based top (similar to shepherd’s pie, but with an egg crust instead of a potato one). You’ll often find raisins thrown into the mixture, which is served over a bed of yellow rice. Try one at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands, Cape Town.

Fresh from the oven koeksisters. By Manne (Flickr)

9.  Koeksisters

A traditional sweet dessert, koeksisters are made by deep frying braided dough and then rolling it in syrup. There is a Cape Malay variety which is more spicy than sweet, and these are covered with desiccated coconut. Try a traditional koeksister at Lekgotla in Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg.

Let us know what other local flavours you think foreigners will enjoy this festive season.

Main image courtesy of warrenski (Flickr)