Culture Food

Experience South Africa’s Love Affair With Indian Food

Indian food in south africa
Written by Teresa Mwangi

Indian Food in South Africa is now a mainstay, thanks to the increasingly growing Asian influence in Mzansi.

Besides, the growing influence, a high number of Indians of South African origin are the force behind the establishment of several excellent Indian restaurants. They have an Indian-South African touch feel but the food is as chilli hot as it is in Mumbai or New Delhi.

You don’t miss a beat with Indian cuisine back in Mzansi; the spicy curries taste as good as those in Punjab.

What Is The Indian Culture Famous For In South Africa?

The Indian food culture is a major reason behind its fame in Mzansi. South African Indians prepare flavorful food, such as Chicken tikka, vindaloo, chutney, vindaloo, chutney, pastries and spicy curries make up the most popular Indian Food in South Africa. What’s more, is that you will find them across South Africa.

Indian food in South Africa

Indian food. Photo/

Further, you enjoy the delightful taste of Indian cuisine during major cultural events like weddings, religious holidays, and social gatherings. Couple with their fascinating fashion sense; you enjoy every bit of it.

Chicken tikka and the Durban curry are the most popular delicacies in Mzansi inspired by the Indian culture.  Durban City in particular is synonymous with the ‘Durban curry’, a famous Asian curry. The city has an extremely high population of the Indian community.

Durban curry is a hot and savoury meal with culinary influences from Malay, Indian, and African cuisines. Usually served with rice or bread like roti or naan; it has additional meat or vegetables toppings cooked in a flavorful curry sauce. Durban restaurants make it best due to the large Indian population thus, its name is ‘Durban Indian curry’.

One distinct culinary feature of Indian food in South Africa is that these curries vary in taste depending on the veggies and spices used and the province one is in. A curry prepared in the Western region of South Africa will taste different than one prepared in the East due to the ingredients used. The cooking techniques also change from region to region, but the Indiana element still exists.

Is Curry popular in South Africa?

The Indian community in Durban totals 800,000 and this city doubles up as a curry hub of Indian food in South Africa. The Durban curry and bunny chow are so famous that every Indian restaurant you walk into has it on the menu. These curries have a similarity in that they are searingly hot-flavoured, greasy in texture, and have a deep rich red colour. There are chunks of fish, potatoes, or lamb in them.

South African-born Indians have a distinctive identity and an unrivalled passion for Indian cuisine. They are descendants of Asian labourers who worked for the British on their farms across Mzansi in the 1860s. Most worked in British-owned sugar plantations and hailed from Gujarat and Southern India regions.

How Indians Arrived in South Africa

There are many fascinating tales in every migratory account of Indian indentured workers employed by the British to labour on plantations throughout their colonies, and South Africa is no exception.

The Indians were first prohibited from getting off their ship when they arrived in South Africa. Authorities asked them to remain on board the ship until the cholera outbreak was contained because it was under quarantine. These foreign workers had no much of a choice other than staying remain on the ship.

In such situations, they were forced to eat the food that was provided to them; shipboard cuisine and certain South African dishes given to them by local sailors.

Although most of the Indian labourers were vegetarians, they ate eat meat because vegetables weren’t enough on the ship at the time. Together with the South African passengers, they ate rice, rotis, beans, and some fish. This marked the beginning of the distinctive fusion that would later give rise to Indian food in South Africa.

Indian food in South Africa

Indian food in South Africa. Photo/Rough Guides

Indians in South Africa have since adapted to the culture and incorporated Zulu ingredients into dishes that resemble their home cuisine. These recipes evolved into Indian cuisine with their own unique flavours. Indigenous Zulu components like the fermented milk beverage amasi and the traditional chakalaka feature in South African Indian cuisine.

What Are 5 Traditional Foods In South Africa?

The most popular traditional foods in South Africa include the following;

  • Biltong
  • Durban Bunny Chow
  • Bobotie
  • Boerewors
  • Chakalaka and Pap


Food is a big part of the Indian culture and you can be a part of it in South Africa. Try the Durban curry, the chicken tikka or bunny chow; they are a perfect example of what blended Indian cuisine is like.

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About the author

Teresa Mwangi

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, loves travelling and telling stories about tour and travel in Africa by every angle.

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