Cape Town’s Top Five Cuisines

An abundant range of spices are used in Cape cooking. Photo © Cape Town Tourism

Cape Town’s diverse multi-cultural ancestry has enjoyed the influence of many cooking traditions - Italian, Malay, Chinese, Japanese, Moroccan, French, Portuguese, Congolese, Greek, Brazilian, Thai and Korean. Cape Town is renowned for its diverse, stylish restaurants and excellent food, always complemented by the range of superb local wines grown nearby.


Surrounded by oceans the city is blessed with an abundance of seafood; in many eateries the food is strongly Mediterranean, often with a Portuguese or Cape Malay influence. Most popular are prawns, mussels, oysters, kingklip - baked, deep-fried, grilled or pan-fried - and snoek, a game fish usually braaied (barbequed) or smoked.

Cape Malay

The Cape Malay cuisine of today has developed from recipes introduced by Middle Eastern slaves brought to the Cape by the Dutch East India Company. Cape Malay cuisine is typically spicy but can be sweetish. It includes dishes such as curries, sambals, pickled fish, and a variety of fish stews, bobotie (spiced mince meat baked with an egg-based topping), bredies (a meat and vegetable stew) and sosaties (skewered meat). Cape Malay fare is a signature Cape culinary style.


Many Indian dishes arrived in South Africa with the thousands of Indian labourers who were brought here in the 19th Century. Indian cuisine offers an enormous variety of hot curries, samoosas, atjars (a vegetable/fruit relish), and biryanis (rice-based foods made with spices and meat, fish, eggs or vegetables). Bunny chow is an Indian dish originally from Durban that has been adapted into mainstream South African cuisine where it has become quite popular. It consists of a half loaf of bread with its centre scooped out and filled with your choice of curry. You typically eat it with your hands. Indian cooking is a favourite in South Africa and Indian restaurants have become very popular over the past few years.


Corn and maize have long been the basis of African cuisine. Each African community has different recipes and ways of eating foods, but certain dishes have the approval of nearly all the tribes:

Mielies are often eaten off the cob, and are sold on the roadside.

Dried and coarsely broken or crushed maize kernels, or samp, are used in dishes such as umngqusho (samp and beans).

Dried maize kernels ground finely into maize-meal are used for everything from sour milk porridge to dumplings and mieliepap (stiff maize porridge).

Maize is also mixed with sorghum and yeast to make umqombothi, a popular African beer, or with flour and water to make mageu, a refreshing non-alcoholic drink.

Meat – beef, chicken, goat, and often tripe – is usually cooked over the fire.


Foods most commonly attributed to the Afrikaner culture are based on Dutch cuisine, with contributions from French and German immigrants and the Cape Malay population. Boerewors (sausage), braai (a barbeque), potjiekos (a meat and/or vegetable stew cooked over a fire in a cast iron pot), frikadelle (meat balls), and vegetables sweetened with syrup, honey, cinnamon or sugar, are a few traditional Afrikaans dishes. South Africa is famous for its dried salted meat or biltong, and for its preserves known as konfyt - pieces of fruit, and rind soaked in lime water, are cooked in syrup and spices.

Please do not hesitate to contact Cape Town Tourism for suggestions on what to see and do, where to eat, how to get around and where to stay. Contact or call +27 (0)21 487 6800.