Indians first came to South Africa in the mid 19th century and due to a shortage of some ingredients, had to improvise and invent their own flavours and techniques. The Indians of South Africa do not cook exactly like Indians in India. South African Indians use unique cooking techniques which differ from the preparation of Indian food in the rest of the world. They cook with richer and more flavoured spices, integrating styles from both Indian and South African cultures.
The local Indian cuisine has very distinctive flavours. Spices are used extensively and the complexity and aromas of these spicy combinations are quite irresistible. The most common spices found in these curries are coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and plenty of chillies. Garlic and ginger are essential to creating the characteristic flavours. Curries are usually served with rice and accompanied by some sort of bread such as naan, roti or poppadom. Other common sides to a curry are sambals, such as tomato and onion or cucumber in soothing plain yoghurt, known as raita. Common curries include Korma, Tikka Masala and Vindaloo.
In India, foods are very regional specific but because the South African Indian people come from a diverse range of communities, a collective fusion of Indian cooking has developed. No dish is more representative of the South African Indian experience than bunny chow, a Durban street-food classic where loaves of bread are scooped out into improvised bowls and filled with whatever curry is on hand.
Whilst Durban is the home to one of the largest populations of Indian descent anywhere in the world, Indian food has become so popular throughout all of South Africa that excellent Indian restaurants can be found in almost every city and town. Check out a few of South Africa’s best Indian restaurants below and treat yourself to an Indian food experience like no other.
The Indian Oven – Hout Bay
Bombay Brasserie @ Taj Cape Town – Cape Town CBD
Bihari – Newlands
Annapurna – Durbanville
Moksh Indian Restaurant – Paarl
Geet Indian Restaurant – Pretoria
Masala Indian Restaurant – Boksburg
Red Chilli Spice – Craighall Park
Thava Indian Restaurant – Montecasino, Sandton
Curry Up – Clearwater Mall – Roodepoort
Impulse by the Sea Restaurant – Ballito
OSA Restaurant at Fairmont Zimbali Resort – Ballito
Palki Indian Restaurant – Durban
Indian Summer – Durban
Incredible India – Umhlanga
Royal Delhi Restaurant – Port Elizabeth
Raasoie Ethnic Indian Cuisine – Port Elizabeth
Royal Bombay Express – East London