1. Feb, 2018

What's in a name? Glossary of South African culinary terms

“Patience can cook a stone.” – Lemba proverb.


Achaar. A piquant, spicy relish usually made from unripe mango.

Afval. The head, tongue, stomach and trotters of a sheep stewed with new potatoes in a mild curry sauce.

AK47. A “foot long” bun filled with fish and chips, which can also contain polony, egg and even calamari.

Amadumbe. Also called the African potato, it is the starchy bulb of the “Elephant’s Ear” plant.

Amakhekhe (aka AmaPotchefstroom). Kasi-style scones, eaten without additives like cream of jam.

Amanqina. The hoof/trotter of a cow, pig or sheep. It is first boiled, then spiced for taste.

Amarula. A cream liqueur made from the ripe fruit of the Morula tree.

Amasi. Soured cow’s milk.

Askoek. Soda bread cooked over a fire or in the hot ashes, hence the name meaning “ash cake”.

Bacalhau. Codfish first cured with coarse salt, then sun-dried. It can be stored indefinitely at ambient temperatures, with no bacteria or mould able to grow on the highly saline dried cod fish.

Beskuit. (Eng. Rusk). A hard, dry biscuit with a long shelf life, usually dunked into coffee.

Biltong. Literally translated from Dutch it means “Buttock Tongue”. Dried strips of beef, game or ostrich. A much-loved snack.

Biryani (aka breyani). A spicy Indian meat or vegetarian dish with rice incorporated. Not strictly speaking a “curry”.

Blatjang. Chutney made with chunky fruit and spices.

Blindevinkies. In English literally “blind finches”; a Boerekos version of Beef Olives.

Bobotie. A dish of Cape Malay descent; essentially a spicy cottage pie containing raisins and egg. It is often served with yellow rice, sambals, coconut, banana slices, and chutney.

Boereklonge. Whole grapes preserved in brandy.

Boerewors. A robust sausage, usually coarse-ground, containing beef and pork that is traditionally braaied over open coals.

Boerewors Roll. A hot dog bun filled with braaied boerewors and onion and tomato relish.

Bogobe. A porridge popular among the BaTswana and BaPedi, made with a mixture of fermented sorghum and mealie meal.

Bokkoms. Mullet brined and then sun-dried with guts and all.

Braai. Cooking meat over a fire is more than just a variation of barbecue; it is a way of life.

Braaibroodjies. Sandwiches containing cheese, tomato and onion, braaied over open coals.

Bubende (aka Ubende). The Zulu version of Black Pudding – tripe stewed in blood.

Bunny Chow. Curry in a hollowed-out bread loaf, eaten with fingers using bits of bread to scoop up the filling. Originated in host city Durban when black workers weren't allowed into restaurants.

Chakalaka. A spicy relish based on tomato, onion, carrots and chilli, and often baked beans.

Chotlo. A Tswana delicacy: boneless meat cut into extremely small pieces which are boiled, then ground before being put back into the pot and stirred until it becomes very fine 

Chutney. Known as blatjang in Afrikaans, it is a sweet, spicy fruit relish.

Denningvleis. A Cape Malay classic. Stewed lamb flavoured with tamarind seed.

Dhaltjies. Ball­ shaped Malay snacks made with chickpea flour, spinach, onion and turmeric and deep-fried in hot oil.

Dikahare. Basotho-style offal dish made with beef stomach, intestines and lungs.

Dikgadika. Pork rind crackling, similar to kaiings. Traditionally eaten with phutu or bogobe.

Dombolo. Kasi-style steamed dumplings.

Durban Curry. A locally-evolved recipe; hotter than most Indian curries. It is coloured red with tomatoes and cayenne pepper, and usually served with rice and condiments such as chutney, sambals and poppadums.

Eisbein. Pickled pork knuckle, which is either boiled or deep-fried.

Flattie. A spatchcocked chicken, usually grilled or braaied with a marinade or peri-peri.

Frikkadel. A savoury meatball. Frikkadels are also made from minced perlemoen (abalone) in the Southern Cape.

Gatsby. Mainly eaten in and around Cape Town, it consists of a long hot dog roll with fillings of anything ranging from polony to chicken or fish and hot chips.

Haaksel. Similar to pluck; the organ meat of a slaughtered animal.

Hertzoggies. Small sweet pastries with a coconut and apricot jam filling. Named after the late Prime Minister, Genl. JBM Hertzog.

Hoenderpastei. Chicken pie, a traditional Afrikaans dish.

Isidudu. Porridge made from pumpkin.

Jerepiko. A fortified sweet red wine.

Kaiings. Pieces of pork rind fried until crispy in rendered fat. Traditionally eaten on pap.

Karringmelk. Buttermilk.

Katkop. Half a loaf of bread, hollowed out and filled with hot chips.

Kerrievis. Portions of fish pickled in a Cape Malay curry sauce.

Koeksusters. Braided pastries, deep-fried and heavily sweetened with syrup.

Koolfrikadelle. Meatballs wrapped and cooked in cabbage leaves, dolmades-style.

Kop en Pens. A sheep’s head boiled in its stomach.

Korma. A mild, creamy curry flavoured with cashew nuts and butter, made with either meat, chicken or vegetables. 

Kota. A sandwich made from a hollowed-out quarter loaf of bread, containing a spicy filling and often a Russian sausage or polony and some chips.

Kuite. Whole fish roe sacs, poached or fried whole.

LM Prawns. Prawns imported from Mozambique; named after Lourenço Marques (now Maputo).

Mabele. Ground sorghum, an indigenous relative of quinoa.

Mageu/Mahleu. A drink made from fermented mealie pap.

Mala Mogodu. Stewed beef tripe. It is usually eaten with hot phutu and morogo.

Malay Curry. A mild curry, combining sweet and savoury flavours--using sweet spices like cinnamon and ginger, dried fruit (especially dried apricots), garlic and onions.

Malvapoeding. A sweet spongy dessert of Dutch origin, which became popular all over the world after Oprah Winfrey featured it on her show.

Mampoer. Eau de vie distilled from wild or deciduous fruit.

Masonya. Dried Mopani worms. They are usually soaked, and then stewed with tomato and onions.

Mektert. A milk-based tart or dessert.

Melkkos. A dessert consisting of flour dumplings cooked in milk.

Midundo. Kasi-style vetkoek filled with spicy mince.

Mieliebrood. A sweet bread made with minced sweetcorn.

Millet. A small-grained, annual cereal belonging to grass family. They were consumed as food and in alcoholic brews by Black South Africans before the introduction of maize.

Morogo. Also known as wild spinach. Foraged, normally from Amaranthus plants.

Moskonfyt. A jam made with grape must (the skins, pulp, pips and dregs of the juice left after pressing).

Muscadel. A sweet white fortified wine.

Naan. A flat Indian bread. They come in different flavours, including butter and garlic. Best eaten fresh from the oven.

Pampoenkoekies. Pumpkin fritters, flavoured with cinnamon and sugar.

Pão/pãozinho. Portuguese-style bun; pãozinho is a smaller version of the former.

Pap/Phutu. A thick maize porridge which is a staple across Southern Africa. Pap and meat is often served as takeaways on sidewalks.

Paptert. A lasagne-like dish made with layers of pap instead of pasta sheets.

Paratha. A thin, tortilla-like flatbread used to wrap or sop saucy Indian dishes. Similar to the Malay roti.

Peri-peri. Known as piri-piri in Mozambique, it is a fiery sauce based on olive oil and bird’s eye chillies.

Pienangvleis. Named after the island city of Penang, it is a mild Cape Malay beef curry.

Pinotage. A red grape cultivar which evolved in South Africa. It is a hybrid of Pinot Noir from Burgundy and Hermitage (Cinsaut) from the Rhône Valley.

Pofadderwors. A thick sausage made by stuffing chunks of game or mutton liver, heart and kidneys into the animal’s large intestine, along with seasoning and sheep fat.

Polisiekoffie. Brandy and Coke.

Potbrood. A savoury bread baked over coals in cast-iron pots.

Potjiekos. A traditional Afrikaans stew, made with meat and vegetables and cooked in a three-legged cast-iron pot over coals.

Prego. Mozambican steak sandwich, with the steak smothered in a fiery red sauce and encased in a fresh Pão bun.

Raita. A mixture of plain yoghurt and grated cucumber, eaten with very hot curries to mitigate the burn.

Rissois. Portuguese-style pastries, usually with a creamy seafood or chicken filling.

Rooibostee. A tea made with the dried, fermented leaves of the indigenous rooibos ("red bush"; Aspalathus linearis).

Roosterkoek. A sour dough bun cooked over a campfire.

Roti. A thin, tortilla-like flatbread used to wrap or sop saucy Malay dishes. Similar to Indian paratha.

Sadza. Zimbabwean mealie porridge.

Sambals. Chopped onion, sweet peppers and tomato, mixed with lime juice and chopped coriander leaves. A traditional accompaniment to curry.

Samosa/samoosa. A savoury pastry with a spicy filling that is deep-fried.

Samp. Crushed dry maize, soaked and then cooked until soft. Often combined with dried sugar beans.

Shark Biltong. Salted and dried strips of Jaws & Co.

Shisanyama. IsiZulu for “hot meat”, this is the Black African version of a braai. Diners select raw meat cuts, often to braai themselves in shops or restaurants.

Sishebo. Savoury gravy eaten with phutu.

Skilpadjies. Lamb's liver wrapped in caul fat and braaied over hot coals.

Skokiaan. Home-brewed township “moonshine”.

Slaphakskeentjies. A tart salad made with cooked baby onions.

Smileys. Sheep heads par-cooked and roasted with the heat exposing the sheep's teeth into a grin or smile. Usually found at taxi ranks and downtown city markets.

Smoorsnoek. Cured Snoek simmered with onions, potatoes and tomatoes and a hint of curry.

Sosatie. Cubes of meat marinated in a curry sauce, braaied on a skewer.

Sousboontjies. Home-made baked beans.

Souskluitjies. Dessert consisting of large dumplings baked in a spicy cream- of milk-based sauce.

Soutribbetjie. Mild-cured lamb rib, slowly braaied until the meat is crispy.

Spatlo (aka Kota) A sandwich made from a hollowed-out quarter loaf of bread, containing a spicy filling and often a Russian sausage or polony and some chips.

Speenvark. Suckling piglet, usually slow-roasted over open coals on a rotating spit.

Streepmuis. Soda bread cooked on a grid over a fire. The name (Eng. “striped mouse”) comes from the scorch marks made by the grid.

Sult. Curried pork brawn.

Tamatiebredie. A traditional Cape Dutch stew made with mutton and tomatoes.

Ting. A Tswana staple; stiff porridge made from fermented mabele (sorghum).

Tjokka. Afrikaans for Squid/Calamari.

Trinchado. A Mozambican dish of steak cubes stewed in a hot, spicy sauce.

ubuSulu. Wine made with the sap of the iLala palm tree.

Ulusu. A stew of animal stomachs.

Umbona. Braaied mealies on the cob.

Umngqusho. A stew made with beans, samp, beef, onion, tomato and green pepper.

Umphokoqo. A traditional Xhosa dish of phutu and fermented milk.

Umqombothi. A beer made from fermented maize and sorghum. Nelson Mandela’s favourite beverage.

Umsila Wenkomo. Xhosa-style oxtail stew.

Umvubo. Sour milk mixed with dry pap, commonly eaten by the Xhosa.

Utshewele. Toasted mealie kernels.

Utshwala. Traditional African sorghum beer.

Vaaljapie. Cheap dry white wine sold in bulk to farmers for use under the “dop” system.

Vetkoek/Amagwinya. Balls of deep fried bread dough. Served plain as street food but also can have sweet or savoury fillings.

Walkie Talkies. Cooked chicken feet and heads – called “Kop en Skop” in some parts. The feet are also known as "runaways".

Waterblommetjiebredie. A mutton stew containing the flowers of the Cape pond weed (Aponogeton distachyos).

Witblits. Eau de vie distilled from grapes.


“The food here is terrible, and the portions are too small!” – Woody Allen.