It may be the wildlife that attracts most travellers to Africa, but we often find that its colourful and flavourful foods provide equally enriching experiences to our travels.
African cuisine is as diverse as the vast number of cultures that exist on the continent, and its food and flavours are so delicious that many of Africa's iconic dishes have been popping up on discerning menus worldwide. One thing is for certain: African food is just as interesting and varied as its people.
Over the years, we have learnt so much about Africa’s rich traditional and contemporary cultures, as well as its culinary contributions to the rest of the globe by eating our way through a good chunk of the continent. What follows is a lifeline to some of the finest as well as the most authentic foodie experiences available around the continent, which may come in handy when you don’t know where or what to eat, and want to steer clear of tourist traps.
Signature dishes around Africa
Malva puddingThis traditional dessert serves up a deep nostalgic sweetness for South Africans with every bite. It is an unpretentious springy cake where the textures and flavours are elevated by the apricot jam that it is infused with and the hot custard sauce that is drizzled all over it once it’s out of the oven. The true origins of malva pudding is still a mystery, especially since varying family recipes have been passed down from generation to generation. But most would agree that chef Maggie Pepler is the unsung hero behind its resurgence into modern-day dessert menus when it was featured on the buffet at Boschendal in the late 1970s.
InjeraEthiopia has been a rising star on the global culinary scene for their healthy and flavourful dishes. As one of only two African nations that was never colonised (except for the short Italian occupation between 1935-1946), Ethiopian food has managed to remain originally its own. Some quintessential dishes to try include wat, kifto, gomen and tibs - all of which are served on sheets of injera. This spongy flatbread made from teff (an ancient gluten-free grain) is used like an eating utensil to wrap and scoop up the delicious food from the large communal platter.
RolexStreet food is an integral part of every busy East African city dweller’s daily life. It’s fast, cheap and it makes a great on-the-go meal. One of the most popular roadside delicacies is the Ugandan Rolex – a simple omelette with shredded cabbage, tomatoes and onions that is wrapped in chapati. Locals love it so much that there’s even a Rolex Festival which takes place in Kampala for foodies to get together and indulge in rolexes from different regions around Uganda.
Kuku pakaOriginating from the Kenyan coast where centuries of trade and migration have shaped the region’s cuisines, this iconic Swahili dish (also called 'kuku na nazi') features the perfect blend of African, Arabic and Indian cooking cultures and flavours. To give the coconut-based curry an extra 'oomph', the chicken is grilled over charcoal to lend it that wonderful smoky finish. You’ll find similar versions of this popular dish in neighbouring Tanzania too, where the chicken is sometimes substituted by fish ('mchuzi wa samaki') or octopus ('pweza na nazi'), particularly in Zanzibar.
SadzaThe first solid food that Zimbabwean babies eat is sadza and it’s also Zimbabwe’s national dish. This chief source of carbohydrates is actually hot cornmeal or maize porridge rolled by hand, often served with comforting stews or barbecued meats. Variations of this staple can be found across Africa: ugali in Kenya and Tanzania, nshima in Zambia, pap in Botswana and South Africa, oshifima in Namibia, posho in Uganda, fufu in West and Central Africa – and the list goes on. Regardless of its name, its popularity among the African people is certainly unrivalled.
BobotieWidely recognised as South Africa's national dish and a favourite of many A2A travellers, bobotie (pronounced ba-bo-tea) is made with ground beef seasoned to perfection, with a creamy, decadent topping. A traditional bobotie is said to have six key elements which influence the flavour, cooking technique, and consistency of the dish. These are curry spice, cinnamon, jam, raisins, bread soaked in milk, and bay leaves. The result should be a balance between spicy and sweet; however, the sweetness should never overpower the dish. A well-made bobotie is rich, savoury, spicy, aromatic, and zingy.
Dining experiences on safari
For many first-time safari-goers, you’d be forgiven for thinking that lunch is going to be some exotic game meat cooked over coals. Instead, you’ll be pampered with gourmet meals – as many as up to seven times on any typical day. Expect homemade teatime treats like milk tarts and scones; hearty breakfast spreads with cereals, fruits, cheeseboards, pancakes and eggs cooked to order; crunchy salads, juicy burgers or artisanal pizzas for lunch; homemade game drive snacks and a refreshing Gin & Tonic to sip on as the sun sets over the African savannah; and more mouth-watering dishes served under the stars in the evenings.
Sustainably-sourced local ingredientsMany safari camps and lodges in our portfolio have embraced the farm-to-table movement long before it was #trending. Guests are often pleasantly surprised as the food (made from the limited but fresh ingredients that their land provides) that comes out of these kitchens are just as sophisticated as any Michelin-starred restaurant’s tasting menu. We could even arrange for you to visit their garden/farm to meet the hens that supply the eggs, check out the organic produce that are grown by the staff, and see how they manage waste in order to minimise harm to the environment.
Multi-sensory meals in the wildSafari chefs love incorporating their luscious meals into the wilderness to create multi-sensory dining experiences. Breakfast may be served in the bush, while lunch is a laid-back poolside event as you watch animals gather around the nearby watering hole for a drink. A surprise sundowner can be waiting for you under a majestic baobab tree as the sun goes down – complete with a sumptuous spread of snacks and fine wines, beers and spirits. After dark, dinner may be enjoyed around a lively communal table or the staff may well pull out all the stops by setting up bonfires and lanterns in the boma for dining under the starry skies. Of course, private dining in your tent is also possible – if you prefer.
Taking care of special dietary needsWith food being such an integral part of the safari experience, anyone with dietary requirements and food allergies can be assured that the chefs will go above and beyond to ensure that all dietary needs are met. Let us know and we’ll take care of the rest.
Foodie experiences in Africa's vibrant cities
For many of us living in big cosmopolitan cities, access to different restaurants and cuisines comes easy. So we get it that foodies are looking for more immersive dining experiences that go beyond the “Top 10 Restaurants in [fill in the blank]” or the well-oiled cooking classes with ingredients already washed and cut for you. That’s why we’ve rounded up some unique foodie experiences that will spice up your holiday experience.Cape Town's wealth of vibrant food marketsMarket hopping is a hobby in Cape Town, and locals love to spend weekends and spring or summer evenings on a market crawl. The city is home to over a dozen wonderful food markets worth checking out if you are in the area on market day. For keen foodies, the Oranjezicht City Farm Market in town and the Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock's Old Biscuit Mill are not to be missed. Oranjezicht's fresh produce from local urban farmers has everything from seasonal fruit, veg and flowers to homemade goodies catering to all types of foodies, including vegans and vegetarians. Woodstock's Neighbourgoods Market is the hippest market in Cape Town, offering quirky shops selling crafts, clothing and jewellery. But the highlights are its incredible food stalls, serving everything from steak sandwiches to paella to dumplings and gyros - with craft beers, local wine and bubbly to wash it all down. Wheat, gluten, sugar, and dairy-free alternatives are also served.
Immersive cooking workshopsIf your idea of a great day is to get behind the stove and whip up a scrumptious meal, you’re in good company. Our hands-on culinary workshops can begin at a local market where you stroll through colourful food stalls, chat with sellers, learn about the key ingredients that are often used in traditional dishes, and pick up what’s required for the meal. Some experiences could even start from the forests or the beach where you will forage for pine ring mushrooms, edible flowers, harvest kelp, etc. – seeing nature in a whole new way. Back in the home kitchen or cooking studio, everyone will get busy with creating dishes from scratch (under the guidance of the chef) and then enjoy the sumptuous meal together afterwards. You’ll come away from the experience with a deeper understanding of the local food culture and heritage, as well as have great recipes to share with loved ones back home.
Gourmet-infused private toursIf you’re like some of us who just want to eat (instead of cook), we can arrange for you to explore gourmet destinations like Cape Town with a fellow local foodie. Sink your teeth into artisanal chocolates, Gatsby sandwiches and other yummy snacks, as you hop between local joints hearing all the interesting tales behind these delicacies. There are also working farms that our local guides can take you to observe how local foods like biltong are made, or arrange for a picnic basket full of seasonal delights for you to indulge in amidst gorgeous vineyards. If the timing is right, we could even take you to gourmet festivals like the Knysna Oyster Festival, the Franschhoek Bastille Festival and other exciting fêtes.
From ‘holes-in-the-wall’ to fine restaurantsThen there are those of us who love seeking out the top tables where chefs are pushing the envelope of culinary inventiveness and creativity. Not only do we have a list of our favourite restaurants – ranging from the most iconic restaurants serving up exquisitely plated courses to hidden gems dishing out comforting homey bites – that we can help you to book, we can also organise private soirées hosted by local chefs for gourmands who prefer intimate social table feasts and unique dining experiences.
Vegetarianism and veganism as a return to African roots
For a long time, grandmothers and other matriarchs across Africa have been cooking up delightful meals accentuated with lots of greens for their families. Ethiopia, in particular, is renowned for their delicious plant-based foods as many abstain from meat for up to 250 days a year due to religious practices. Even if there was meat, there wouldn’t be much and it would mostly be reserved for special occasions. This changed with colonisation and the monetisation of cattle, whereby Africans started to eat more meats. Nowadays, growing health trends have encouraged Africans to return to their vegetarian and vegan roots. Many dishes in traditional restaurants are already plant-based to begin with, such as the South African relish 'Chakalaka' and Tanzania’s national dish 'Ugali na Maharage'. With many trendy vegan and gourmet health-food cafés/restaurants now dishing out such tasty repertoires, even meat-eaters are finding it hard to resist. Meat-free culinary endeavours through Africa just got more exciting and there is no turning back!
Tell us about your most memorable meal(s) and we would love to tailor our recommendations just for you.
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We do not subscribe to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy. Sample itineraries and cost estimates are meant purely as a guide. To find out more, please contact one of our expert travel consultants to plan a customized itinerary based on your budget and interests.