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Smiley, a Sheep's Head in South Africa 2024-2025

A plate of sheep's head with a grotesque grin is an element of traditional cuisine

Best time: all year round

Smiley, a Sheep's Head

Thanks to traditions, nothing is wasted in South Africa. Street vendors offer everything from ox tongues and bull brains to pig's trotters and goat ears and testicles. It is sheep's heads, however, that are a local favourite. The cooking process may differ: sheep heads are broiled in large drums, and then charred with heated metal rods to get rid of the fur. Some cooks first strip the head of the fur, wash it, parboil it in vats, and then roast it over hot coals. It may also be boiled and then roasted in the oven. Regardless of cooking method, you'll get a golden brown grinning sheep's head. That grotesque smile is caused by the intense heat, giving it the lovely name—"Smiley".

In South Africa, Smiley is a typical street food found year-round in the townships of Cape Town. While the main cuts of meat are delivered to local butchers, the townships make use of the heads. It is also considered a favourite food in the Kwazulu-Natal Province. When you venture to try this delicacy, note that the most delicious parts are the tongue, cheeks and brains. After all, everything but the teeth is edible.

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