Each Southern African country has very distinct traditional foods that were strongly influenced by the European countries that were imminent in their past, slave trading and indigenous foods. Over the years these dishes fused to create very typical meals that are enjoyed by all people.
In South Africa Indian people came to work on the sugar cane fields in the Natal of that time. They brought with them their knowledge of curries and spices. Today all cultural groups create their own fusion curry dishes. A curry potjie is a good example of this. A potjie or potjiekos is like a stew with a variety of meat and vegetables. It is normally cooked on an open fire.
The Malay people that came to the Cape, as slaves, added their own curry dishes to the tradition. Bobotie came from the Cape Malay culture which is a curried mince dish. It is normally eaten with yellow rice which is flavoured with turmeric or saffron and raisins. Atchar and sambals are condiments to go with curry dishes. Sambals consist of cucumber, tomato, onion and yogurt.
The Afrikaner people created a lot of very typical dishes that have become favourites with all cultural groups. Milk tart is a delicatessen where the filling is milk based and flavoured with cinnamon. Biltong is air dried meat that can be made with beef or game meat and even ostrich biltong has become popular lately.
In Namibia, the German influence is still very strong and typical German bakeries create the most delectable butter based biscuits and other German pastries. Rauchfleish is German for smoked meat which is another popular food. South African food also had an influence on Namibian food and some of their speciality dishes are Biltong, game meat (Kudu, Springbok and Gemsbok) and Potjiekos. Local beer is Tafel Lager or Windhoek lager. The Mopane worm, a large edible caterpillar, is popular in the northern parts of Namibia and some South Africans also eat Mopane worms.
In Mozambique the Portuguese influence is very strong. Prego rolls (steak roll), espetada (large kebab) and piri-piri chicken are some of the favourite dishes. Cassava (starchy root) and cashew nuts are plentiful. In the rural areas Xima (pap made from corn meal or cassava) is their staple food. Pap is also a staple meal for many South Africans and Zambians, in rural areas. Even urban people love their pap. It is a very healthy meal which is normally combined with vegetables and a little meat, if available. Deuce M or 2M is the local beer in Mozambique.
Mauritian food is influenced by French, Indian and Chinese cuisine. Fish is a staple meal and everybody eats baguettes (French loaf). Baguettes are more filling and tasty than normal bread and very cheap in Mauritius. A basic Mauritian meal, that you will get when you take a boat trip to one of the remote islands, would consist of fish (made on an open fire), salad, baguettes and flambé bananas for dessert. Jungle juice would be the drink accompanying this meal. Rum, fresh pineapple, Miranda Pineapple cold drink and pineapple juice are mixed to make Jungle Juice. Phoenix is the local beer and the most affordable.
Experiencing the local food of a country, with the locals, is always an interesting way of getting to really understand a place and its people.