Favourite American food, South African-style

  • 29 July 2015 | Christine Marot
Hamburgers top the list of popular American meals. Image courtesy of Alexis Mialaret

Although an exciting part of visiting a new country is trying the local cuisine, it would be reassuring for American visitors to South Africa if you demonstrated an appreciation of their culture by preparing a traditional American meal for them.

No prizes for guessing that the ubiquitous hamburger tops the list. The name is a bit of a misnomer since it’s actually a mince patty (usually made of ground beef) that contains no ham.

Tempting as it might be to order a burger takeaway (“take out” in America) from one of the many franchises to be found in South Africa, your guests would probably relish a home-made burger. If you have to cut corners, rather just order the fries if you haven’t the time to buy a pack of frozen oven chips or, better yet, make them from scratch. Don’t forget to add lashings of “mayo” and “ketchup” to that burger.

Or how about some “buffalo wings”, a delicacy eaten “boneless” or “bone-in” by a whopping 81% of adults in the United States (US). According to the National Chicken Council’s 2015 Wing Report 1.25-billion wings were expected to be eaten during this year’s Super Bowl. 

Although named after the buffalo, this delicacy is essentially a descriptor for deep-fried chicken wings coated in a spicy sauce and served with blue cheese or ranch-style dressing.

Buffalo wings, American style. Image courtesy of wEnDy

What would a good American meal be without a Philly cheesesteak? This perenially popular dish comprises shredded grilled steak, served on a hoagie (long bread roll), topped with a melted provolone (an Italian soft smoked cheese made from cow's milk) sauce, onions, peppers and mushrooms. 

Muffuletta is another lunch-time choice. This is an Italian sandwich served on round, sesame Sicilian bread made popular in New Orleans by Italian immigrants. Split a muffuletta loaf, or the equivalent in local speciality bread, horizontally and smother it with layers of marinated olive salad, mortadella, salami, mozzarella, ham, and provolone.

If it’s a sit-down dinner you’re planning, why not opt for a relatively new Thanksgiving favorite, made famous in South Africa by music celebrity Nataniel?

This is, of course, the turducken, a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned turkey. These birds are roasted together, with the chicken adding flavour to the turkey and preventing it from drying out during the slow roast. Serve with roasted potatoes, roast butternut, green beans, rice and gravy, with a robust red South African wine like a cabernet.

A typical turducken. Image courtesy of are you gonng eat that

On the seafood front you might attempt “shrimp and grits”, a staple in the southern states. This is the South African equivalent of pap (without the sous). It’s basically a cornmeal dish traditionally eaten with butter and milk. Steamed shrimp is generally added on top of the grits.

Sweet and crunchy, Cracker Jack is popular among children. Image courtesy of Sun Brockie

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, have a bash at New England clam chowder. Clam chowder may be served two ways – New England-style or Manhattan-style. The former comprises clams and broth in a cream-base with diced potatoes, onions, bacon, and shucked clams. The dish is simmered slowly and generally served in winter. Variations include adding cognac and/or Tabasco sauce, and it may be served with oyster crackers or freshly baked French bread. To make the dish Manhattan-style, make the broth red by adding tomatoes and clam juice.

If your visitors have young children, you could score major points by making a batch of Cracker Jack. A favourite snack among the younger generation, this recipe has been immortalised in song:

Take me out to the ball game, 
Take me out with the crowd. 
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack...

Cracker Jack is made from popcorn and peanuts, with a caramel candy coating. Although consumers are mainly young children, since every box comes with a prize, this treat is as much a favourite among adults.