South Africa deserves its description as a rainbow nation. We have eleven official languages, and people from a range of ethnic groups, cultures and traditions. When it comes to local cuisine however, there is one dish that is ubiquitous: South African curry. Curry makes an appearance across the country, from the East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between.
South African curry recipes are as diverse as the people who live here. Where one might encounter a curried crayfish in the Cape’s West Coast region, Karoo curry is sure to contain lamb while on the east coast of South Africa, towards Mozambique, Portuguese-influenced per-peri curry may be more prevalent.
We at Rajah explored South Africa’s varied curry culture to bring you five of the tastiest local curry recipes.
Sweet And Savoury Cape Malay Bobotie
Cape Town is well known for its Cape Malay cuisine. In the 1600’s slaves from Ceylon, Indonesia, Batavia, Java and Madagascar were brought to the Cape Colony to serve the Dutch settlers. The group of people from what was then the Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia) were called Cape Malay. They introduced new spices to the region in the form of turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, coriander and chilli and over time, these spices were incorporated into traditional Dutch stews. So was born the now famous and beloved Cape Malay curry.
Cape Malay curries are usually milder than the curries on the East Coast and are also not as red in colour. Cape Malay curry often contains dried fruit such as apricots and raisins, resulting in the sweeter taste typical of Malaysian cuisine. In fact, chutney is referred to as blatjang across the region - a word derived directly from Malay (the language of Malaysia).
We came across this delicious Easy Cape-Style Bobotie recipe which is as traditionally South African as you’ll ever find. Rajah Mild & Spicy Curry Powder adds a slight zing to the mince and the occasional raisin adds a sweet surprise.
Sea-Swept West Coast Curried Fish
When travelling to the West Coast region of South Africa, you’ll find yourself in seafood country. This part of South Africa is famous for its icy waters, wind-swept beaches and harsh climate, but above all, what stands out most in the minds of travellers is the fish, mussels and crayfish that can be enjoyed here.
Curried fish is a summer delight in these parts. Served with warm bread and a side salad, this is authentic West Coast cuisine. Try this Pickled Fish recipe to bring a taste of the West Coast into your home. The onions soak up the Rajah Medium Curry Powder over time and give the fish a salty, sea-swept taste. Serve your curried fish with lemons on the side - delicious!
Vetkoek – The Ultimate Comfort Food
A simple mix of flour, water, sugar and salt, rolled into balls and deep fried to a delicious golden brown, vetkoek (or “fat cakes”) have been a staple part of South African cuisine since the Voortrekkers moved out of the Cape and trekked through the interior of the country.
These delicious little balls of heaven are traditionally served stuffed with a curried mince but are also extremely popular in isiZulu cuisine, where they are often eaten as a sweet pastry rolled in sugar, called Amagwinya. These days fresh, tasty vetkoek are an iconic South African streetfood, available at most taxi ranks and takeaways, filled with mince curry, polony and cheese or just dripping with sugar. Try our recipe Spicy Mince and Beans with Vetkoek which needs only one tablespoon of Rajah Medium Curry Powder.
Tripe Curry - A Traditional Favourite
Many South African are rather passionate about curried offal. Want to try for yourself at home? No problem. With this easy Spicy Tripe Curry recipe you can’t go wrong. For a unique spin, try adding 15ml of apricot jam to the sauce. The sweetness of the apricots and the acidic taste of the tomatoes gives the offal a lovely tangy flavour.
A Modern Take On Free State Beef Curry
The cattle farms of the Free State boast some of the best beef in the country. Bloemfontein, Welkom and Ficksburg are small towns located in this arid part of South Africa. Temperatures here plummet into the sub-zeros during the winter and this is when the locals enjoy warm, spicy food that heats them up from the inside out.
Beef curry is one of the Free State’s favourite dishes. In our Beef and Sweet Potato Curry with Couscous recipe we moved away from the traditional South African beef curry accompaniments like rice or pap and served our curry on quick-cooking couscous. For our veggies, we substituted the original potatoes with sweet potatoes making this version slightly more modern, but every bit as tasty as the South African beef curry you are used to.
Nutritious Bunny Chows & Lentil Curry Pies From Durban
We end our culinary journey across South Africa on the East Coast. Durban is the curry mecca of South Africa, hosting the largest population of Indian people in the world outside of India. It is here where you will find the authentic Bunny Chow - Durban curry served in a hollowed out half-loaf of bread.
To try a totally different type of Durban cuisine check out this meat-free delight: Lentil Curry Pies made with nutritious lentils and infused with Rajah Medium Curry Powder, turmeric and cayenne pepper. This South African curry is suited to vegetarians and just spicy enough to tickle the tastebuds. Tip: make an extra pie to put in your hubby’s lunch box; you’ll be in his good books the whole week!
Spoilt For Choice
As locals we are completely spoilt for choice when it comes to delectable South African curry dishes. From coast to coast and across the expanse of our beautiful country, we have delicious, homegrown ingredients and great quality curry powder that make it all come together for big occasions, weekday dinners or anytime loved ones gather around the table.