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Southafricanisms: Biltong – the quintessential South African delicacy and mouthwatering marvel of meat.

Spend a day in South Africa and chances are you will come across Biltong in some shape or form. Any shop that sells food is likely to have some biltong, be it chopped, in sticks, in a big hunk or its poorer cousin droewors (dry sausage). Many haute-cuisine South African restaurants try to incorporate it into their tourist freindly menus.

Biltong (from Dutch Rump-Strip) is made from strips of meat. Generally beef is used, but also kudu, ostrich, springbok and just about anything with a heartbeat. Fish Biltong is known as Bokkoms. The meat is dried with rock salt, coriander seeds and vinegar, but as with any traditional delicacy there are many variations.


Americans tend to compare it with Jerky, which would have the cows themselves rolling in their graves. They are both meat products, but that is where it ends. Biltong is more like a triple-aged, delicately seasoned steak; Jerky, a dry burger patty with salt.

Notes on choosing biltong:

  • To get a taste for biltong, rather start with beef and get it coarsely sliced.
  • Ask for a moist piece with the fat left on.
  • The fat on the biltong should be yellowish and crystalline, not clear and waxy.

  • Before buying extra suitcases to take it home with you, find out first if your country allows meat products from South Africa. Some countries have stern restrictions on meat products, since the international foot and mouth scourge.
  • You can train a dog to do capoeira, with a handfull of biltong!

For a very deluxe, albeit non-traditional biltong experience, try “The Butchers grill” on Buitengracht Street, expensive, but… damn.