Since former President Nelson Mandela won election in South Africa, many changes have occurred in the country. Now, embraced by the rest of the free world, this once economically troubled country is on the upswing.

Recognized as global players, South Africa's (SA) food and beverage companies are considered a financial backbone in this country. Big plans are in the making to expand the export divisions of these companies. A total of 1,900 companies produce a variety of food products, including spice mixes, herb blends, prepared entrees, desserts and wines—all completely unfamiliar to most Americans because of SA's past political climate. Now, many companies are bursting at the seams with hopes of their goods arriving on the shores of America. South African cuisine is hard to describe, because its foods are as diverse as the nine regions that compose this 300-year-old country.

Spicing It Up

One SA company has distributed excellently its company name and products throughout the United States. Ukuva iAfrica (meaning “sense of Africa” in the Xhosa language) is headquartered in Cape Town, but produces products locally in Kirkland, Wash. Ukuva iAfrica USA's mission is to bring the exotic taste of Africa to every jar of spice and sauce they produce.

Currently, the company features four lines of cooking and hot sauces.

Malawi Gold—a basic sweet potato flavor used to cook chicken, turkey and other game birds.

Zulu Fire Sauce—a zesty sauce from the famous Zulu Tribe in SA, made with carrots, sweet potatoes, chili peppers and other African spices and herbs. This sauce compliments beef, pork, vegetables and fish.

Xhosa Umsobo Iyababa—translates to “purple heat,” because of its unique color and flavor derived from beet roots, spices and herbs. It can be used to add a zing to fish, shellfish, chicken and lamb.

Swazi Mamma Mamba—a creamy green sauce that derives texture and flavor from cilantro, chilies, herbs and spices. This is a great addition for salads, vegetables, egg dishes, crab, lamb, beef and hummus.

Locally, Ukuva iAfrica USA produces four spice blends, each containing a globally African flavor.

Khoisan Seaweed Salt—named after the Khoikhoi and Sans people, the oldest known inhabitants of SA. Suitable for salads, egg dishes and soups, this product is a combination of untreated natural sea salt, nori and sea lettuce (seaweeds), mixed herbs and spices.

Zanzibar Island Spice—a mixture of four-color peppercorns, cloves, ginger and coriander. This pepper flavor can be used to season lamb, beef, game birds and stews.

Moroccan Harissa Spice—inspired by the traditional “Diffa,” known as the multi-course feast. To be added to finished dishes—such as veal, chicken, seafood, or fresh seasonal vegetables—this exquisite North African seasoning contains chilies, caraway, mint, cumin, coriander, garlic and sea salt.

Zulu Fire Spice—a blend of chilies, peppadews, sweet peppers, black pepper and ginseng that can be added during preparation or as a finish to vegetables, sauces or casseroles.

Reference Information

South Africa is the most westernized country in Africa and boasts several food-related trade shows and food and beverage organizations worth visiting and exploring:

SAITEX. The South African International Trade Exhibition (the largest annual trade show held in South Africa)., e-mail: or phone: (27) 11-494-9236.

Grocery Manufacturers Association of South Africa., e-mail: or phone: (27) 11-886-3008.

South African Dairy Foundation. E-mail: or phone: (27) 12-348-5345.

South Africa Poultry Association. E-mail: or phone: (27) 11-795-2051.

South Africa Federation of Soft Drink Manufacturers. E-mail: or phone: (27) 11-726-5300.

South Africa Meat Industry Company., e-mail: or phone: (27) 12-325-5005

South Africa Sugar Association., e-mail: or phone: (27) 31-305-6161.

South Africa Wine & Spirit Exporters Association., e-mail: or phone: (27) 21-887-0199.

Malay Cuisine

Known as “Creole” melting pot cooking, this cooking style began in the Western Cape region of SA. The most popular type of cooking throughout SA, Malay Cuisine encompasses all facets of cultures, such as Dutch settlers and indigenous Khoisan people, as well as slaves from Bengal, East Africa and the Indonesian Islands.

Signature Cape Malay foods include sosaties (kebabs), bobotie (curried mince dishes prepared as one-meal dishes) and bredies (meat, tomato and vegetable casseroles).

Cass Abrahams, author and internationally renowned expert on Cape Malay cooking, started her own food manufacturing company a few years ago, which now produces over 30 retail food products. Some of her bestsellers include Cape Curry Cooking Sauce, Date & Tomato Chutney and Fennel & Cumin Pan Fry Sauce.

Abrahams currently has two cookbooks under her belt (The Cuisine and Culture of the Cape Malays and Cass Abrahams Cooks Cape Malay Food from Africa). She was recently hired as the top consultant to create recipes, menus and interior decor for The Cape Malay Restaurant, located in the posh five-star Cellars-Hohenort Hotel (Relais&Chateaux) in Cape Town.

Abrahams' ultimate goal is to expose her native cuisine to the rest of the world. With her use of the highest-quality ingredients and customer service, her goal probably will be accomplished.

Chef Khumalo is a rising star in SA. After working in some of the best restaurants throughout Africa, he has recently launched his own line of signature retail spices and sauces. Chef Khumalo calls his products “Africa in a Bottle.” His line includes seasoning salts, African herb blends, vegetable relishes and flavored pestos. One of his most popular products is the African Herb Pate. This fusion of African herbs, sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil is versatile enough to be used as a cooking paste, eaten as a pate on crackers or used as a pesto for pasta.