Best African food in SA

2015-05-24 15:27

Africa is home to many expressive but largely overlooked flavours and food traditions. And SA puts Africa’s major food genres on plates throughout the nation. Anna Trapido ate her way through the country to find the best delicacies

Best hot spot for cool people 
The House of Baobab restaurant in the Maboneng Precinct has stylish décor and hipster waiters. The menu features predominantly west African classics, with a few east African snippets. The lemony Senegalese chicken yassa (spicy marinated food prepared with onions and poultry or fish) is superb – especially when it is accompanied by Ugandan-style Rolex chapatis and bissap rouge hibiscus juice to wash it all down.
Main Street, Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg – 011 039 1632

Best diplomatic dining 
The setting seems modest, but the Zemara Congolese restaurant and bar is a home away from home for the upper crust of central Africa. Almost all patrons are diplomats or business tycoons. There are garden tables for summer and a cosy dining room with white tablecloths for winter evenings. Try the slow-cooked succulence of poulet bicyclette chicken in peanut sauce with ngai ngai wild spinach.
933 Francis Baard Street, Arcadia, Pretoria – 072 756 2057/012 342 3080

Best posh nosh 
Ile Maurice serves some French food, but the real draw card is the Mauritian Creole cuisine. Rougaille de Boeuf (Beef Rougaille) simmered in tomato, ginger, chillies and coriander compete for customer consumption with octopus curries bursting with turmeric, mustard seeds and palate-spiking mazavaroo chilli paste.
9 McCausland Crescent, Umhlanga – 031 561

Best cheap as chips, but much nicer
The Kismayo Somali restaurant offers absurdly cheap zurbian (lamb-laden rice, spice and potato mélange), and cardamom-rich sponge cake for dessert. The Somalis call the cake doolshe – derived from the Italian word dolce. You can leave full to bursting for about R50 a head.
Amal Centre (AKA Little Mogadishu), Albertina Sisulu Street (near the corner of Somerset Street), Mayfair, Johannesburg 

Best worth a detour
Contrary to popular belief, no passport is required to eat in Benoni, and East Rand fine food is not an oxymoron. The pomegranate lamb at Tajine Moroccan Restaurant is “excellent cooking, worth a detour” (as they say in the Michelin guide). It also caters for big events such as weddings and year-end functions if you are looking for something different.
36 Russel Street, Benoni – 011 421 6650 

Best for vegetarians
Café Abyssinia operates from inside a converted, double-door garage. Ethiopian traditional religious/culinary culture recognises numerous non-meat fasting days so vegetarian options are many and varied. Specifics are subject to seasonality, but expect the likes of atkilt wot (cabbage and potato stew) and mesir wat (red lentil in berbere spices). Take care with the chilli-laden awazi relish.
77 Problem Mkhize Road, Berea; Durban – 031 836 4777

Best comfort food 
Angolan Taste & Flavours in Cape Town offers exactly that. At the bottom of the laminated menus it says: O naçional e sempre melhor (roughly translated as Home food is always best). Anyone who has tasted the rich palm-nut muamba de galinha chicken and okra stew will agree.
Angolan Taste & Flavours, 41 Victoria Road, Woodstock, Cape Town – 071 035 7432 / 078 330 9976

Special mention: comfort food 
The Silver Orange Bistro in Hartbeespoort, North West, makes a magnificent malva pudding. This boerekos favourite is named this because it has the same springy texture as marshmallows (known as malvalekkers in Afrikaans). Sit on the cool restaurant stoep looking out over fever trees while savouring apricot jam-laden, syrup-drenched South African carb-rich comfort food.
Silver Orange Bistro, R513, 400mfrom Mfula Junction, Hartbeespoort – 082 378 2948

Best street food 
Fifteen is the landmark for a street full of multiple, stand-alone, makeshift pavement kitchens each serving up a unique variation on classic onion-braised ox tripe. They also serve great chicken feet in a buzzing environment.
Fifteen, Corner 15th Avenue and Ruth Road, Alexandra township, Johannesburg

Special mention: street food 
Central African stall holders on the roof of the Cape Town train station sell “Thompson” fish, which is smoked before it is grilled. Everyone eats with their hands. A plastic bottle of floral hand lotion is passed around in an attempt to mask the fishy smell that lingers for weeks.
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