Of their 3 meals a day, most South Africans enjoy their main meal at night. Most hotels serve a full, delicious breakfast. On weekends, you may encounter large parties in cafes around mid-morning, as ‘brunch’ becomes increasingly popular for laid-back Saturdays and Sundays.
South African food etiquette is mostly Westernised, with some of its own oddities. For instance, it’s ok to eat pasta twirling it onto a fork with aid of a spoon, and lobster with your hands.
The popular braai (barbeque) is another occasion where you can use your hands. In rural areas, traditional stew and mealie pap are also eaten with the hands – use your right hand only and roll the pap into a ball with your fingers, then dip it into the stew and eat.
At fine dining restaurants, dress a little more formally towards a ‘smart-casual’ look. Most other eateries, however, are extremely informal, and in the many family-friendly establishments South African food and general etiquette is relaxed. it’s a good idea to call ahead and make a reservation, especially at the more popular establishments, which can be booked weeks ahead in peak holiday season.
If you are invited to dine at the home of South Africans or share a braai with them, it is good etiquette to take a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers, or a small gift as a token of appreciation.
If you are a traveler with specific food requirements during your trip to South Africa, read on:
- Certified halal food products and restaurants are available, controlled by the South African National Halaal Authority. Their website offers a directory of products and restaurants, of which there is a fair spread. Products certified halal are found in supermarkets.
- Kosher food requirements in South Africa are supervised by the South African Beth Din. The choice of kosher restaurants is small, and is limited to areas such as Glenhazel and surrounds in Johannesburg, and the Sea Point area of Cape Town. Supermarket chains and delis stock kosher foods which carry the Beth Din stamp.
- Vegetarian restaurants are few and far between in South Africa, although most restaurants do have vegetarian items on their menus. These options are sometimes a little indifferent, but the better eateries will have a surprisingly good selection. Check the online restaurant directories to locate vegetarian restaurants. Supermarkets stock vegetarian meals in their pre-prepared ranges.
- Tourists with allergies and health issues, who require specially prepared foods in South Africa, will find our health shops stocked with alternatives from the preservative-free to the probiotic-rich. Most are staffed by personnel clued up on vitamins, supplements and natural options.