Southern Africa does not have an extensively developed cuisine to call its own, but a few signature dishes, snacks, and sweet treats are worth sampling.

The most popular local cuisine is Cape Malay, characterized by sweet aromatic curries. These include bobotie, a delicious baked meatloaf, mildly curried and served with chutney; and bredie, a tomato-based stew, usually with lamb, often served with pumpkin sweetened with brown sugar. Another Cape delicacy not to be missed is waterblommetjie bredie, or water lily stew, also usually cooked with lamb. Many South African menus feature Karoo lamb, favored because the sweet and aromatic herbs and grasses of this arid region flavor the animals as they graze, and ostrich, a delicious red meat that tastes more like beef than anything else, though it is fat free. Game cuts such as springbok, kudu, eland, impala, and warthog are common on menus catering to tourists. Try them if you must, but be warned that they are usually less tender than ostrich, lamb, or beef. Look out for vetkoek (literally, "fat cake") -- a deep-fried bread-dough, stuffed with curried mince; in Durban, they serve a "bunny-chow" -- a half-loaf of white bread, the soft innards pulled out for the crust to become a receptacle for various curries.

Durban is, in fact, famed for its hot Indian curries, whose burn potential is usually indicated by names such as Honeymooners' Delight (hot) and Mother-in-Law Exterminator (damn hot!). Samosas (pastry wrapped around meat or vegetable filling and fired) are also popular as street snacks, as well as on some upmarket menus.

The coastline supplies seafood in abundance: fish, abalone, mussels, oysters, crabs, squid, langoustines, and the Cape's famous rock lobster (crayfish). For a uniquely South African-flavored seafood feast, head for one of the West Coast beach restaurants. Here, snoek, a firm white fish, is traditionally served with konfyt (fruits preserved in sugar syrup, from the French confit, a legacy of the French Huguenots).

Look for the spiraling smoke trailing over suburban fences and township yards each weekend, when throughout the country South Africans barbecue fresh meat over coals. The ubiquitous braaivleis (barbecues) or tshisanyamas ("burn the meat") feature anything from ostrich to boerewors (a coriander-spiced beef-and-pork sausage, arguably South Africa's staple meat). The most basic African foodstuff is corn, most popularly eaten as pap, a ground-maize polentalike porridge, or the rougher wholegrain samp. Both are served with a vegetable- or meat-based sauce.

Choice desserts are melktert, a cinnamon-flavored Dutch custard tart; malva pudding, a hot, sticky sweet Dutch pudding, served with custard or cream; or koeksisters, plaited doughnuts deep-fried and dipped in syrup.

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