World Foods: South African Biltong

South African Biltong Header

You don’t have to get on a plane to experience the world. There are so many ways you can explore different cultures and countries no matter what your budget and schedule looks like. One way to do it? FOOD. And that’s what we’re all about.

Half the team ran away when we brought out South Africa’s favourite snack- Biltong!

Biltong is dried meat, created by the indigenous people of South Africa as a way of preserving it before the invention of the fridge. It is traditionally made with either beef or game (kudu, springbok, ostrich and venison are favourites!). It translates as ‘rump strips’. Rump is the back end of a cow. So technically I suppose you could call them butt strips (cue immature sniggering.)

Biltong

The typical ingredients include the meat, vinegar, pepper, coriander, salt and brown sugar. The meat is first marinated in the vinegar and then drained. The flavouring is rubbed over before being hung up in a special dryer for 4+ days.

Biltong is very similar to beef jerky. There are however, some key differences. Traditionally, jerky is smoked, whereas biltong is not. The typical taste and production differs slightly too. Jerky is sliced before the drying process and biltong after.

In South Africa, you can purchase biltong at most groceries and butchers. It is enjoyed as a snack or can be added to stews & sandwiches. It has even been used to help babies with teething problems. Ok….

biltong 2

But what did we think? We got our hands on some beef biltong because funnily enough, there are no kudus or springboks running around London. We also tried some Drywors, which are the sausage version of biltong, made with pork. Here’s what those milling around the studio thought. We also gave some to friends of SORTEDfood…

Two team members, Lou and Tom, refused point blank to try some. They are super open minded…

Barry did something very odd with his facial muscles and decided that “it’s very smoky and chewy.” Mike liked it. Go Mike. But he “couldn’t eat a whole bag.” On first glance both Barry and Mike politely declined to dry a drywor. Potentially because it looked more than a bit rude.

Ben was a fan: “The biltong’s very, very meaty whereas the drywor is a little more flagrant.”

Drywors

Other comments:

“As the biggest meat lover I’m a huge fan!”

“I lived in South Africa so had Biltong all the time. At first it was quite overpowering, but after getting used to it, I now love it. It’s a real treat.”

“I prefer the drywor, it tastes Christmassy.”

“It’s all a bit of a workout on the jaw.”

The Verdict
Meaty. It seems if you’re a meat fan, biltong could be the snack for you.If you’re trying it for the first time, maybe go for a drywor or some biltong with more flavouring added. It takes some getting used to.

Where Can I Find Some?
Make use of the internet to find a retailer that might stock biltong near you. There are quite a few specialist South African shops established in the UK and America now. You can also order biltong online in packets. The beef is fairly pricey, but as you may guess, you don’t need a lot to get the flavour.

What do you think? Any die hard fans of biltong out there? Have you heard of it before? Most importantly, would you try it? Let us know.

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At SORTEDfood, we do our best to recreate as many awesome recipes as we possibly can. With our global community at hand we’re always looking to expand our foodie knowledge, so if you are too, tag along! We’ll tell you how to find international foods, what they taste like and how they traditionally should be enjoyed.

  • BiltongBuddys

    Hi Hanna,

    I find biltong tastes better if you use Red Wine vinegar when you are making it. It adds a lovely flavour to the meat.
    Thanks for the lovely article!

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