October 5, 2022

Mariedelices

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Surprising Things About Grocery Shopping in South Africa As American

In South Africa, the international sections are smaller and lack a lot of the foods I used to buy in New Jersey.

food aisles in south african groceries

In my experience, South African grocery stores don’t carry ingredients for empanadas, tostones, or arepas.

Megan Gieske


When I lived in New Jersey, I loved cooking empanadas and tostones with my friends from Colombia, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. The ingredients were easy to find in stores like ShopRite and Weis Markets.

That’s not the case in South African grocery stores. Ingredients for Latin or Mexican foods occupy just a couple of shelves in the international section. Forget trying to make empanadas, tostones, or arepas. If I’m lucky, I can find half a shelf of stale taco shells. 

Because South Africa has one of the largest Indian populations outside of India, its grocery stores have a much larger selection of Indian foods than the stores did in New Jersey. For example, I can buy curries from Durban, a city that’s home to South Africa’s largest Indian population.

The stores also carry a wide variety of African foods and beverages — such as samp, which are dried corn kernels; mealie pap, a breakfast food made of milled white corn; and Stoney, a spicy ginger ale.