Koeksisters, traditional South African dessert items made from deep-fried dough, are particularly popular in Cape Town. But not all of these tasty bite-sized treats are made equal. There are two easily confused variations of the dessert: koeksister and koesister. Both are deep-fried, but the former comes plaited, has a hard exterior and comes doused in syrup. The latter is closer to a traditional doughnut, and often comes in bun form with a coconut dusting and a hint of spices.
You’ll be able to find these items in most supermarkets, but both options are worth seeking out at restaurants and takeaway shops while you are in Cape Town.
Food Truck, South African, $$$
Arno Arpin has been selling homemade koeksisters from a small food truck adjacent to the N1 City supermarket for several years. Although tracking him down might take some effort, and his location is less predictable than a static retail store, his deep-fried delicacies are widely regarded as among the best in the city. Because this is an informal store, it’s usually worth calling ahead to find out if they still have stock.
The Wembley Roadhouse is a no-frills restaurant located in the Cape Town suburb of Belgravia. It’s famous for its range of budget-friendly curries, samosas and burgers, but they also serve up cheap and tasty koeksisters at their store. For just a single five-rand coin (US$0.40) you’ll get the perfect sweet plait of dough to end off your meal at this Cape Town institution.
This restaurant, located where the first settlers in the Cape chose to plant their vegetable gardens in the Company’s Garden, opened to some controversy owing to their unsubtle appreciation for the early colonisers. But after a subtle rebranding, much seems to have been forgotten. Owing to their location in the Gardens and the steady flow of tourists, it’s a good place to go to sample local delicacies. Their gourmet koeksisters that come with a fig preserve may not be the most traditional, and are far from the cheapest in town, but given the leafy location they’re worth a try if you’re looking for a sweet kick in the CBD.
Mariam’s Kitchen is a popular city-centre lunchtime venue, and their focus is primarily on all things savoury. But if you’re looking for a sweet treat to follow that gatsby or roti, then you’ll also be able to pick up a koesister or two for just a few coins.
Restaurant, Fast Food, Halal, South African, Soul Food, $$$
This Cape Town institution has been in business for years, and although most patrons head there for their famous gatsbys and tasty sandwich and burger options, their koeksisters are also well worth a try. They’ll cost you just a few rands and are as close to authentic as you could wish for at such a busy establishment.
This small business on Cape Town’s busy Lansdowne Road may offer a few popular savoury items for sale, but it’s their baked goods that keeps customers coming back for more. They offer traditional koeksisters in various forms, including fried, sugared or with syrup, at just three for R10 (US$0.80). If you’re really taken by these delicacies, you can also pick up a pack of 10 frozen and unsugared koeksisters, or place a bulk order to keep you going throughout your trip through the Cape.
Ouma Rooi (Afrikaans for ‘Grandmother Red’) makes some of the country’s best syrupy koeksisters. In fact, they won a koeksisters competition declaring as much back in 2014. This small business, that prides itself on its traditional South African koeksisters with golden crusts and doughy, syrupy interiors, has grown to a point where you can now purchase these items at stores and restaurants throughout the country, including most supermarkets, some service station forecourt stores and even popular coffee shops.
This small business in the Cape Town suburb of Wynberg has built up a loyal following over the years, and given that they’ve been in business for 30 years, they must be doing something right. To their regulars, that would be their good prices and quality meals, which include a selection of baked goods. They offer a range of traditional South African and Cape foods, including traditional koesisters.
The Bo-Kaap Kombuis is a simple restaurant located in the Cape Town suburb of Bo-Kaap. It’s been family-run since inception, and they serve up a wide range of traditional Cape Malay cuisine. Included in this are their popular koesisters, which come in the form of a platter. Or you could opt to include them in a mixed platter with other traditional dessert items such as potato pudding and malva pudding.
Deeghuys offers a wide range of baked goods, including many that are frozen and designed to be cooked at home. But they also serve up fresh, ready-to-eat koeksisters at most of their stores. While you’re there, you can also pick up a range of other local delicacies, such as vetkoek, roosterkoek, and malva puddings. They have retail outlets throughout the Western Cape.