South Africa’s 25 most nostalgic foods

Remember the ‘Mom remembered Melrose’ jingle? And how excited we all used to (read still) get over Ghost Pops? What about Steri Stumpie, Super-Cs, Nik Naks, Crème Soda floats, Marie Biscuits and Zoo Biscuits? And Ice Cap chocolate sauce? Or marshmallow fish, and mice with black aniseed tails, kept in a jar at the counter of the corner shop? And, for the ultimate sugar high (and gastronomic low), Dirkie condensed milk in a squeezable tube.

The treats of our childhood might not qualify for culinary greatness, but South Africa certainly does have some wonderful nostalgic foods. Here’s a look at the South African brands and dishes we love best.

Bakers biscuit tray
The dark chocolate foil biscuit, the pink wafers, or the lemon creams: everyone has their favourite.

These days this quintessential cured treat is popping up in everything from salads to pancakes. All we know is that if you can flavour a Melrose Cheese triangle with it, we’re into it.

Bunny chow
Typically associated with Durban, this dish originated on the sugarcane plantations as a way to transport lunch. Make your own bunny chow with sugar bean and vegetable curry.

This meaty dish topped with a layer of golden egginess is a Malay-influenced staple. Recipes vary, but usually call for apricot jam, chutney, Worcester sauce, curry powder and a handful of controversial raisins. Even Nigella loves bobotie!

Chappies chewing gum
Once upon a time you could get a handful of chappies for 1c and learn all you ever wanted to know about Blue Whales or mount Kilimanjaro. (Plus get some gum cut out of your hair an hour later.)

Deep-fried braids of dough dipped in spicy syrup? Yes please. You can’t go wrong with this achingly sweet treat, especially when bought in jiffy bags from a tuisnywerheid tannie. Attempt koeksisters on your own.

Malva pudding
Made with apricot jam, this sticky pudding is an Afrikaner classic. We all know granny made it best, but try Ouma Corrie’s malva pudding. (See our list of where to eat malva pudding.)

Melrose cheese
Are they still allowed to call it cheese? Not sure if the term applies to this addictive bright yellow goo, but you can’t beat this lunchbox treat. (If mom remembered, that is.)

Milk tart
Originally this traditional dish was flavoured with dried naartjie peel, peach kernels or blanched almonds. Coconut milk or sweet wine were also sometimes added; nowadays it’s more likely to be almond essence. You can cut the workload by using ready-made puff pastry for the crust.

African or wild spinach is a traditional South African veggie that’s high in protein and vitamins. It’s usually prepared simply with onions or potatoes. Try this recipe for morogo and guinea fowl pie.

Mrs Ball’s
Sandwiches, samosas, bobotie, cottage pie and malay curries just aren’t the same without a generous dollop of Mrs Ball’s chutney. If you’re feeling a little more energetic, try our version of the classic chutney recipe.

Mutton biryani
This spicy rice dish can be made with chicken or vegetables, but the lamb variation is the most popular of all. Try this biryani recipe borrowed from Cass Abrahams Cooks Cape Malay.

Nik Naks
We all know the intense pleasure of licking orange tangy fingers after repeated recon missions into the depths of a Nik Naks packet.

The roly poly Oros man is the stuff of nightmares. But this luminous drink was the only after-match option on the school sports ground. (Orange lips were an added bonus.)

Ouma rusks
Our homegrown version of Italian biscotti was first created by Afrikaners during their long treks around southern Africa. Rusks are best enjoyed dunked into a cup of Rooibos tea or moerkoffie. Make your own buttermilk rusks.

Pap, wors en sous
A braaivleis staple, this dish combines a bend of spicy boerewors (farmer’s sausage), a mound of steaming pap (corn meal) and a slightly sweet sous (sauce) rich in tomatoes and onions. Monché Muller does a great twist on the traditional with her recipe for grilled mieliepap, beer-marinated boerewors and roasted chakalaka.

Peppermint Crisp fridge tart
This dessert is a winner for kids and parents – it requires no skill or baking (or style) at all. Peppermint crisp isn’t sold anywhere else, and its delicate crystals of emerald green make this a magical pudding from childhood memories. One of the nominees for this year’s best local blog award, The Food Fox, has a simple recipe for peppermint crisp tart.

Pumpkin fritters
Known as ‘bollas’ among the Cape Malay community, these are served sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. In Afrikaner households, on the other hand, pampoenkoekies are served drenched in syrup. Pumpkin fritters can be eaten as a side with curry or bobotie, or with syrup or sugar for dessert. Make your own pumpkin fritters.

Samp and beans
A daily staple throughout Africa, this dish is also enjoyed at celebrations. A range of different beans can be used; the important element is the samp. Try this samp and beans combination with lamb.

Simba chips
I wanna be a Simba chippie! For the best crunch on a cheese roll, we always go for Simba creamy cheddar; tomato sauce flavour used to be the only choice for parties; and salt and vinegar will sear the skin off the roof of your mouth in a totally delicious way. But what ever happened to Chinese Chutney?

Steri Stumpie
Steri Stumpies are the next best thing if your mom won’t let you stop for a Wimpy milkshake. As well as ubiquitous chocolate, strawberry and banana, you can now get them in crème soda, marshmallow, vanilla and toffee flavours.

This family-friendly pudding with an identity crisis contains anything from bright jelly to sweetened cream, custard and Boudoir biscuits. Try this recipe for more sophisticated strawberry and cream trifles from Alida Ryder of Simply Delicious.

Literally meaning ‘fat cake’, this batter-like dough mixture is deep-fried and can be savoured as a sweet snack drenched in syrup or honey with a sprinkling of cinnamon, or it can be savoury and stuffed with mince. As well as being beloved of the Afrikaans and Cape Malay community, Vetkoek is eaten on township street corners, where it is called ‘amagwinya’. Try this vetkoek recipe.

Wilson’s toffees
Ever start peeling the paper off a Wilson’s toffee, give up near the end, and pop it into your mouth anyway? Totally normal.

Zoo biscuits
Featuring icing silhouettes of animals ranging from lions to dolphins, these pastel coloured bikkies are still the staple of picnics and kids’ parties. They even inspired the name of 2013’s best local food blog at the Eat Out DStv Food Network Produce Awards, by Anél Potgieter.


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