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Culinary Cape Town

Visitors to South Africa often ask me what the country’s national dish is. It’s a tricky question because it depends who you ask. The melting pot of South African ethnicity is reflected – how else? – in the food and drink of its people. Fire-grilled meat and sweet puddings? Of course, but also delicately spiced curries and rich vegetable dishes. Sturdy beers and beefy red wine? Yes, but also sparkling whites and craft gins, flavoured with the plants that grow on Table Mountain.

Bunny Chow during Culinary Cape Town tour

Blending the bakeries of the west with the heat of the east, “Bunny Chow” – chicken curry served in a hollowed-out loaf.

And it is in the shadow of Table Mountain that you can try it all. Cape Town, the Mother of all Melting Pot cities, has become a foodie’s paradise, both in terms of the number of restaurants and the quality of food and wine served. As you might imagine, international dishes dominate the top-end restaurants but local South African cuisine finds expression in two forms: Cape Malay cooking, predominately found in the Western Cape, and a more traditional African cuisine, drawing influences from across the continent.

Bobotie during Cape Town Culinary Tour

A Cape Classic: Bobotie – spiced mince with an egg & milk topping, served with rice & fruit chutneys.

How to enjoy it all? Instead of making half a dozen restaurant bookings, make it easier – and possibly more fun – by going on a guided food tour. Now you are in the hands of a knowledgeable local. There’s no need to worry about where to go or how to get there. These are walking tours – professionally guided – and all the difficult decisions about the menu are taken care of (what is a koeksister?) and local eating habits revealed (how do you eat pap?). (Answers: a deep-fried dough ball, and with your fingers!)

Culinary Cape Town guided tour

You call it a barbeque but in South Africa it is a “braai” (rhymes with ‘eye’) & you are certainly allowed to eat with your fingers.

Cape Malay food is the focus of one tour. The legacy of the historical relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia (the former Dutch East Indies), Cape Malay food has distinctive flavours, relying more on subtle spicing rather than heating things up with chilli and pepper. The curries are mild and often feature fruit in them – apricots, raisins – and are served with chopped banana and chutneys. European influence, however, shows itself in the desserts; if you love a sticky baked pudding, then you’ll love Cape Malay food!

Malva pudding South African dessert

A jam-covered Malva Pudding: it doesn’t get any more sticky-old-school than a South African dessert.

Traditional African food forms the focus of another tour, comparing the hearty fare of South Africa – meat, veggies and ground corn porridge (pap) – with the tapas-style cuisine of Ethiopia where you share spiced dishes and warm flatbread with your fellow foodies. Walking around the heart of Cape Town, you’ll also have Asian flavours and Cape wines to try as well as opportunities to shop at markets for African souvenirs and clothing.

South African braai

Meat still features heavily in South African cuisine but vegetarian & vegan dishes are now widespread & as good as anywhere else.

Taking in historical aspects of Cape Town as well as providing cultural and social insights, these food tours are highly recommended for those travellers who like to see more of a destination than just its most famous attractions. There is alcohol served on the tours but it can be substituted for non-alcoholic drinks, and vegetarians are easily catered for. Vegan and gluten-free diets are best served by booking a private tour.

Bo-Kaap, Malay Quarter, Cape Town

A Cape Town culinary tour also takes in the extraordinary city neighbourhood of the Bo Kaap, home to the best Malay food in town.

Running Tuesday through Saturday every afternoon of the year and in just about all weathers, the tours are family friendly and limited to a maximum of 12 guests (and with a minimum of two). Popular over the summer holiday season, tours should be booked in advance if you are looking to secure a particular day or want a private culinary experience. Note these are walking tours that begin and end in the city: you’ll probably need transport there and back which is easily arranged. But above all – as they say – come hungry.

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Reviews

An incredibly well organised tour with no hassles whatsoever.

Safari Online understood our needs and was able to present us with sensible options to choose from. It was evident that this tour operator has knowledgable and experienced agents who can arrange a seemless tour. We were provided with a professional online itinary which was comprehensive and easy to use, knew exactely what to expect, and encountered no stumble blocks along the way.

Gwen (AU)
Karina was absolutely instrumental to our safari success.

Our experience with Safari Online was excellent. After becoming very frustrated trying to search for a safari destination on our own, we turned to Karina for help and she was a lifesaver.  We had an amazing safari adventure at the lodge–the experience of a lifetime–and are so grateful for her help. We literally couldn’t have done it without her!

Chris (USA)
It was a safari of a lifetime and exceeded all of our expectations!

Our mom grew up in Central and South Africa so we had visited the continent many times. My sister and I wanted to take our teens and husbands to Africa to experience the magic. We had a limited budget but big and specific expectations and by some miracle Walter was able to manage both.

Heather (USA)
Best trip I have ever been on. Highly recommend.

Would highly recommend. Safari online asked questions when booking and were efficient and knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodation and animals were wanted to see. Gave advice on a few little extras with no pressure, which we did and am very grateful which make trip even more exciting. Would definitely recommend booking with them.

Walter has always been an excellent communicator and has supported us fully

We have been to Africa for 24 of the last 27 years so know a bit about what is involved. Walter has arranged the details for the last couple of years, and has done a superb job. He is always quick to respond and comes up with answers immediately……..no evasive tactics, always head-on!

Roger (UK)
Professional, patient, efficient and responsive. Met all our travel needs and requirements spot on

Communication was excellent – I asked A LOT of questions and did a ton of research myself and Walter was extremely patient with me and very responsive. he was straight forward and extremely professional. Tour itself was excellent – an incredible experience and one never to be forgotten. Everything was spot on.

Neena
Very helpful good suggestions for holiday ideas always available for questions good organising

Excellent service and they supplied good suggestions for our holiday they also organised all internal flights and arranged check in for us so we had no worries while on holiday. We have had a most memorable holiday staying at wonderful places thanks to Sabrina and Safari Online. Would recommend Safari Online to organise your holiday.

Lorraine (UK)
Safari Online were extremely efficient and absolutely charming to work with.

Our 28-day itinerary took us to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. A magnificent and unforgettable adventure. Everything ran smoothly and efficiently from the flights, transfers, rides, connections, etc. Absolutely wonderful! Can’t thank them enough!

Ann and Mario (Canada)
Professional, quick and top of the edge service!!!

From the very first contact we’re very happy about the respond time and quality of information from safari-online.com. Based on the received first tailor-made quote, which is a weblink with all the details about the flights, photos of the lodges etc. we knew that this is “our” partner for this trip. Our expectations were excelled!!!

Lukas (Germany)
Safari Online made our fantastic family holiday dream come true!!

Safari Online have been nothing but professional and incredible from the time we made our first enquiry to the last day of our stunning holiday. Nothing was too much trouble for Walter. We are now starting to plan our next family Safari for 2019. Guess who we will be booking with??? Safari Online we hope you are ready!!!!!

Penni (AU)