Some of SA's food not for the faint-hearted

South Africa’s daring dishes. Images by PxHere and Monika Kubala/Unsplash

Food for the brave: South Africa’s daring dishes

South Africa’s food scene is a vibrant one offering a mix from various cultures. Here are some dishes not meant for the faint-hearted.

Some of SA's food not for the faint-hearted

South Africa’s daring dishes. Images by PxHere and Monika Kubala/Unsplash

South Africa’s food is a vibrant mix of favourites from various cultures. However, there are some dishes that push the boundaries of adventurous eating.


Skilpadjies are essentially grilled meatballs made with lamb’s liver. People call them skilpadjies because the appearance resembles a tortoise shell. Locals mix the minced liver with spices and then wrap it in caul fat, a fatty membrane around the kidneys. It is a firm favourite at a braai for many locals.

Mopane worms

South Africa’s food scene has a long tradition of entomophagy, or insect consumption. Mopane worms are caterpillars native to the Limpopo province. People dry them, fry them, and enjoy them as a crunchy snack. Mopane worms apparently have a nutty, smoky flavour.

They are widely consumed in South Africa and also exported to or imported from other parts of southern Africa such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.


Also known as “runaways”, chicken feet or walkie-talkies are a traditional South African township delicacy. Locals from all provinces in South Africa eat these. In Cape Town, in isiXhosa, people call them amanqina enkukhu. They consist mainly of skin and tendons, so their crunchy texture and flavour differ from the rest of the chicken.

More recently, a company started producing canned chicken feet that are very popular among customers. The company exports the cans to other southern African countries.


Many rural South Africans eat termites as a good source of protein. People often eat these insects raw as snacks after pulling them out of the wood that they’ve been feasting on. Alternatively, they sell the termites at markets where people buy them and then fry them in oil as a crunchy version of this snack. Apparently, these insects taste like carrots.


Another insect consumed in South Africa is the edible stinkbug, commonly known as thongolifha in Venda. Locals eat the bugs raw, dried, or with pap (maize porridge).

According to the Academy of Science of South Africa, the eating of insects is more prominent in the warmer provinces such as Mpumalanga, North West, Limpopo, and Gauteng.


A favourite dish among many locals is offal or afval. Afval translated from Afrikaans to English, means “waste” and it refers to a stew made with organs like lamb’s liver, heart, and tripe. The opinion on this dish is rather straight forward – you either hate it and give it all sorts of yucky adjectives, or you absolutely love it and regard it as a treat.


Bokkoms (or bokkems) is whole, salted and dried mullet, a type of fish commonly known in the Western Cape as harders. It is mostly fishermen who prepare this “fish biltong”. They salt the fish and then dry it in the sun and wind.

Smileys (Skaapkop)

A smiley is essentially a sheep’s head – with teeth and all. The sheep heads are broiled (usually in large drums), and the fur is singed with metal rods, while the animal’s lips pull back to reveal a grotesque smile, hence the name.

The head is served with a bit of salt, and the tender meat can easily be torn off with one’s hands. It is said that the tongue, eyes, cheeks, and brains are the most flavourful parts of a smiley. The head is typically served whole.

Have you or will you eat any of these? Let us know by commenting below.