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Top 10 Most Popular Foods In Cape Town

Ajitsa A.

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Ajitsa A.

Last updated : Jun 04, 20249 min read

Food & Drink

Welcome to The Mother City, home of sandstone mountains, sun-bathing penguins, and a rainbow of culinary delights. South Africa's legislative capital is a melting pot of both local and international cuisine, transforming Cape Town into a food capital.

 

This article highlights some of the city’s most popular foods, from Bo Kaap's Cape Malay cuisine to local coastal delicacies and national treasures. To create a food tour that feeds your appetite for adventure, link up with a local Cape Town private guide and experience the tastier side of this coastal metropolis.

 

Bobotie 

 

Don't be startled when the city's noon gun goes off! It's a sign that lunch is around the corner, and there's no better way to jump into Cape Town's cuisine than with some Cape Malay bobotie. Born from the 17th century slave trade that brought Indonesians, Malaysians, and Indians to the Cape, bobotie is a fusion of sweet, savory, and spicy.

 

The layers of meat, bread, dried fruit, chutney, and custard combine to form a warm casserole often enjoyed with rice or vegetables. Widely considered to be South Africa's national dish, bobotie can be found in most restaurants, with each chef putting their own spin on the lamb or beef-based dish.

 

Cape Malay Curry 

 

Next is another product of the Cape's multicultural blend, Cape Malay curry. Found in the vibrant rainbow neighborhood of Bo Kaap, Cape Malay curry celebrates spices like saffron, chili, turmeric, and cinnamon from Southeast Asia, infusing them with meat and rice to create an aromatic meal.

 

Bone-in pieces are often used to keep the curry flavorful and the meat moist. Unlike curries from India, this version is not as spicy, as former slaves in the region adjusted their recipes to suit European tastes. If you're a spice lover, ask for some sambal, a popular chili paste that packs severe heat.

 

Koeksister 

Arnold Goodway, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Cap off your Cape Malay taste tour with South Africa's version of a donut, the koeksister. The rich dough infused with cinnamon, cardamom, and aniseed and glazed with syrup or honey draws many locals back to their childhoods. This pastry is so beloved that it has its own day, World Koeksister Day, celebrated every first Sunday of September.

 

It's best to devour koeksisters when they're warm and fresh from the deep fryer. To fully explore Cape Malay cuisine, a detailed private tour of Bo Kaap's cobblestone streets should do the trick.

 

Biltong & Droëwors

 

Cape Town tours can leave you pretty exhausted, so why not carry some local snacks to keep your energy up? Biltong and droëwors are like American jerky, but that's where the similarities end. Biltong is thicker, softer, and more flavorful, thanks to the vinegar drying process and the coriander seasoning mix. Droëwors is a dried sausage that's oddly addictive and easy to carry. 

 

These portable snacks started out as survival food for hunter-gatherers and, later on, by Dutch explorers as they made their way across the Western Cape. Today there are all sorts of biltong flavors, and though beef is traditionally used, artisan biltong is quickly becoming the norm.

 

The Gatsby 

 

You haven't experienced Capetonian living until you've tasted this sloppy but satisfying street food. The Gatsby is a monstrous and indulgent sandwich you likely won't find anywhere else. Each Gatsby is different, but most feature two slices of Portuguese roll stuffed with hand-cut fries, polony, steak, lettuce, cheese, eggs, tomatoes, and anything else the chef decides to throw in.

 

This sandwich is massive, which explains the great name. It's best to share it amongst friends after an eventful day, experiencing some of Cape Town's more adrenaline-packed activities like sand boarding or skydiving.

 

Fish & Chips 

 

Cape Town's love for fish and chips is undeniable, whether it was brought over by the British or naturally emerged because of the city's history with seafood. As a result, there's no shortage of fish and chips joints filled with customers ready to order a serving of deep-fried fish and home-made fries with some vinegar on the side. 

 

The snoek, a firm and bony fish common in the area, is the star of most fish and chips plates, especially towards the Hout Bay Area. Here is where you'll find the famous Snoekies, a smoked fish and seafood shop with humble beginnings that date back to the 1930s.

 

Braai 

 

Braai is one of the first things you'll hear about when traveling to South Africa. On any given weekend, you'll be drawn in by the smell of lamb, beef, pork, chicken, and South Africa's boerewors sausages roasting over hot coals. It's not just a Cape Town thing. It's a national treasure!

 

The unifying act of grilling your favorite cuts of meat started with Johannesburg's butcher culture, and is also known as Shisanyama or "burn the meat." The culture quickly spread across the country, resulting in a national Braai Day. Braais are synonymous with South African summers, but you can find a hot coal barbecue firing up throughout the year.

 

Potjiekos 

Chrstphr.jones, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Thick, meaty, and full of flavor, potjiekos is the result of Dutch innovation and traditional African ingredients. This layered stew became a bush staple as Dutch explorers traveled across the Cape and needed a way to cook food with limited resources. The cast iron pot, or potjie, was the perfect vessel for a multilayered slow-cook stew, with meat at the bottom, followed by starch, vegetables, and sauce.

 

Like a braai, potjiekos creates a rich social atmosphere as hungry diners wait to taste the unique blend of starches, spices, and sauce. No two potjie stews are alike, and most cooks have their own mix. Oh, and you'll never catch a cook stirring their potjie. The steam and low heat do the heavy lifting.  

 

Bredies

 

When winter rolls in, Capetonians know that a steaming bredie, or stew, keeps the chill at bay. This simple yet heartwarming meal often features a mix of veggies and meat, usually lamb, cooked with an assortment of Cape Malay spices. There are as many bredies as there are Cape Town locals, but some of the most popular include tomato, Cape Malay sugar bean, and green bean bredie. 

 

If you're looking for an extra special bredie, head to the Winelands where you'll find the waterblommetjie bredie made from water lily sprouts that grow along the Western Cape's dams and marshes.

 

Cape Wines & Cheese 

 

Summer in the Mother City means days spent sampling the best wine the Western Cape has to offer, as you nibble on local and international cheeses. The Cape Winelands is South Africa's premier wine region, with several farms producing their own cheese alongside wines and brandies.

 

Our local experts recommend starting your wine journey in Stellenbosch, South Africa's second-oldest town. This hilly destination is home to award-winning wine, excellent cheese pairings, and that calm, understated rustic beauty often associated with country living.

Conclusion 

Are you ready to take on the alluring Cape coastline? Get in touch with our experienced Cape Town tour guides and create a personalized Cape Town private tour that takes you on an up-close and personal journey through the region’s vibrant culinary scene.

Cape Town Tour Guide - Jean luc K.

Jean luc K.

South Africa

Warm greetings from Cape Town, My name is Jean Luc, Energetic professional with over 14 years of experience informing and guiding tourists. Superior talent for entertaining audience members and delivering a high level of customer service. Extensive knowledge of history and culture; able to learn, retain, and recall extensive amounts of information quickly.                                                                                                                                 

Western Cape Tour Guide - Michael  W.

Michael W.

South Africa

My introduction to hiking and the love for nature happened at the early age of five when I started joining my father on fishing trips to the coastal regions of the Cape of Good Hope section within the Table Mountain National Park. This included hiking through the fynbos to reach fishing spots at the water’s edge. I remember playing in the rock pools of the intertidal zones as well as catching “klip vissies” (small rock fish) there. In later years I went on to join a swimming club, become a water polo player and a lifeguard. The aquatic activities further expanded my love for the ocean. In fact, I spent over 25 years of his life volunteering as a beach lifeguard along the False Bay coast, as well as volunteering as a crew leader on the Cape Town Helicopter Surf Rescue service. Soon after getting married, my wife Bridget and I embarked on an extended backpacking venture across Europe and the Middle East. Over time we have been fortunate to travel to and experience 23 different countries around the world. It is this love for nature, the outdoors, hiking and travel that made for perfect ingredients to become a Cultural Guide, an Overnight Off Trail Mountain and Adventure Guide, and to register a Tour Operator business                                                                                                                                 

Cape Town Tour Guide - Matteo P.

Matteo P.

South Africa

Are you ready for Cape Town? /\/¯¯¯¯¯\/\ Sei pronto per Città del Capo? Enjoy breathtaking cycling routes, embark on a magnificent ascent up Table Mountain, or simply meander through the vibrant streets. Just relax during the scenic drive to the Cape of Good Hope or enjoy a leisurely e-bike ride. Our experience blends captivating culture with serene natural surroundings - take a leisurely stroll through botanical gardens, partake in exquisite wine tastings, go whale watching, indulge in gourmet dining, explore beautiful beaches, and savor the finest craft beers. Discover Cape Town in your own way!                                                                                                                                  

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