Acquired Tastes

Have you ever been brave enough to try some of our slightly slimy delicacies that aren’t so easy to swallow? Well, what are you waiting for? Grab a plate and join our feast!

Written by Supernova

May 14, 2020

7 Slightly Acquired Tastes in South Africa

Admit it, your favourite thing about a Sunday afternoon is probably being able to snack on koeksisters with Rooibos tea or having some of your Gogo’s famous Mogodu with ting or rice for lunch. Or, better yet, being able to nibble on the biltong your dad secretly hides away in the cubbyhole of his car. You probably love South African dishes like chakalaka and pap and bunny chow, and who’d blame you? It’s one of the many things that make our country so special. But have you ever been brave enough to try some of our slightly acquired tastes in South Africa? Well, what are you waiting for? Grab a plate and join our feast!

Smileys or boiled sheep’s head


Smileys (or boiled sheep’s head) is a traditional Xhosa dish that is a delicacy in most rural areas of our country. Yes, you guessed correctly, this dish gets its unique name from the grimace (that looks like a smile) on the sheep’s face when it’s served. The meat is usually served on the sheep’s skull itself, but one can also serve it in stews or with a side salad. Try to not only indulge in the delicious meat of the head itself, but also taste the brains and eyes – if you’re brave enough!

Amasi is fermented milk


You’ve probably seen this treat a dozen times before in the dairy aisle of your supermarket, but have you ever picked up a carton? Amasi is fermented milk. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t sour and still tastes perfectly delicious when guzzled down as is or topped over pap as a nutritious breakfast alternative. Fermented milk is rich in antioxidants and very healthy.

Boy eating mopane worms

Mopane worms

Are you tired of snacking on the same old popcorn at movie nights? Why not switch to a traditional snack like dried mopane worms? This South African delicacy, which originated in Zimbabwe, contains three times the amount of protein found in beef. Another advantage: Mopane worms are very affordable and easy to come by. If you don’t feel like snacking on them dry, you can always boil them in a tomato and garlic sauce and serve them with a side of pap.

Ostrich eggs

Ostrich eggs

Have you ever felt that your scrambled eggs just don’t seem to fill you? The solution? With one ostrich egg being the equivalent of approximately 12 normal eggs, your days of being hungry are long gone. Ostrich eggs are richer in taste than chicken eggs and taste their best when fried, scrambled or made into an omelette. The best place to find fresh ostrich eggs is the ostrich capital of South Africa, Oudtshoorn, in the Karoo.



Skilpadjies (which translates to ‘little tortoise’ in English) is named so because of its appearance. This dish is a lamb’s liver wrapped in caul fat (the fatty membrane surrounding the lamb’s kidneys). This delicacy is rich in iron and Vitamins A and B12. It tastes best when served with thickly buttered slices of toasted white bread.

Walkie talkies

Walkie talkies

Walkie talkies are a popular South African street food! They are chicken feet (walkie) and heads (talkie) that have been grilled or covered in batter and deep-fried. This low-fat treat is high in protein and tastes best when served as an appetizer at a braai with pap and sauce.

Beef tongue

Beef tongue

Although the thought of swallowing a tongue might seem too slimy to consider at first, we definitely saved the best for last! This delicacy tastes delicious on sandwiches or served as a cold meat at Christmas dinner. It can also be cooked and served hot with mustard sauce.

You might choose to swap out your cornflakes for pap-and-Amasi in the mornings. Or maybe pack beef tongue sandwiches as your school lunch. Perhaps you’ll demand mopane worms before dinner. Either way, it’s time to Delve deeper into the diverse menu that is South African cuisine. Looks can be deceiving. Your taste buds might very well surprise your eyeballs (about the taste of eyeballs)!

Supernova Volume 8.3 Frogs

This article first appeared in Supernova Volume 8.3
Words by Venetia Beytell
Illustrations by Kerry Moolman

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