Smiley - © Lonely Plant - North Cape

Street Food Discoveries: South Africa Rocks And Shocks!

South African Street Food rocks and shocks. It features a short but sweet list of unique treats everybody there loves. And it’s no surprise the traditions behind the Cape’s Street Foods owe so much to the tribal roots of the townships and Asian immigration…

An authentic South American Braai grill: recreated
on a Tennessee farm for a community cookout…

Any Google hit appearing in the first dozen or so pages of your search for ‘South African Street Food’ will probably feature the same 8 – 10 dishes. Not that there is a dearth of Street Food in the country. It’s just that South Africans have their distinct favourites and patronize the thousands of stalls and carts that sell them all generously.

And don’t forget the playful and sometimes nod-and-wink names some of the national faves have acquired through their histories…

What you can expect

In general, expect a lot of meat-heavy dishes. But with a lot of flavour and texture scope and a definite exotic side. One thing you can count on: you’ll get a good handful of food for your handful of Rands, and it will stick to your ribs!

On our menu today


South African barbecue; the name of the event, the grill they use, the style of cooking and the resulting charred foods. In SA they’ll sizzle anything on a Braai, and it’s probably the most popular group dining experience in the country.

Bunny Chow

I love the name! And you’ll love the whole idea… According to “It was originally designed as a lunch for workers but these days it’s loved by everyone. Bunny Chow is a hollowed-out bread roll filled with delicious pork or chicken curry. There’s also a vegetarian option filled with beans or lentils.”

Think distant cousin to Sloppy Joes. Folks can carry it in one hand and tear off chunks of bread from the rim with the other to dunk into the filling. Maybe (for it’s name if no other reason) the SA street treat most well-known elsewhere.


The National Sausage. It’s too simplistic to call it the SA equivalent of the Hot Dog; more like an analogue of the German wursts. It’s a blended beef and pork sausage spiced with black pepper, cloves, coriander and nutmeg, grilled on a braai, and served on a long roll topped with fried onions, and tomato sauce. A favoutite at sporting events.


What it says (with tongue in cheek): a combination of chicken feet and heads. “Another dish that sounds disgusting to all modern standards,” admits, “but is surprisingly delicious.”

Walkie-Talkie - ©

The heads and feet are first scalded in hot water so the skin can be removed, well-seasoned, then grilled (braaied) to crispy, golden deliciousness. The hard part is getting past the fact that they’re heads and feet!

The Gatsby

Another sandwich, analogous to the submarine / hoagie. It’s traditionally filled with fish and chips and and topped with peri-peri sauce. But now-a-days you can also versions filled with chicken, steak, calamari, and Vienna Sausages. It’s usually made in whole, ‘footlong’ buns and cut into several pieces for portioning. It’s a lot of food!


Looks for all the world like a hand-sized Calzone, Cornish Pastie, or Mexican Empanada. And like it’s look-alikes, it’s served with a variety of rich fillings including chicken, pork, veggie, or Bobotai (mincemeat) curry.

Amagwinya - ©

A classic grab-and-go treat, but also crab a god handful of paper napkins top swab your drippy chin…


Saved the best (or worst, as some would contend) for last! It’s a goat’s head, boiled to remove the hair then presented on a platter for you, the diner, to choose your preferred morsels – usually the cheeks – which you eat with your fingers (see photo, top of page). It’s sold at stands that prepare only Smiley, and usually sell out early in the day. Yet another SA street food that sounds ghastly but tastes grand!

Tribal traditions positively roar!

Bet you thought you were in for something with Dutch influence… Not by a long shot! Because the Street Food of South Africa had been around for many hundreds of years before the Boers arrived. You can try your hand at making any of the SA folk delicacies we’ve spotlighted today. Don’t miss out on the unique flavours and textures of this meaty, rib-sticking cuisine!

~ Maggie J.