Editor's note: The UK-based Ember snacks is working to raise awareness about biltong, a meat-based snack that originated in South Africa. Below is an explainer from the company about what it is and why it's so delicious.
Every continent has a well-loved treat. It may be something that most people grew up eating by the handful at some point in their lives, which brings back fond memories of their childhood.
The U.S. has Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, the UK has Cadburys, and Southern Africans have biltong.
How does a meat-based delicacy qualify as a treat? Well, the trick is in the tradition.
Southern Africans are raised with this delicacy from a young age. Mothers buy a soft, chewy version for their teething babies, and even pets get a special selection made specifically for them, but what makes it so delicious that so many people now stop to buy biltong?
What is biltong and how is it made?
Most people who love meat enjoy a really good steak, especially one that is filled with flavor, and that is exactly what biltong is.
The only difference between a fresh steak and biltong is one is being cooked and the other cured. The spices are being preserved inside the meat for a much longer period via a curing box with low lighting used as ventilation, providing a burst of flavor with every bite.
It is no wonder that it has become so easy for everyone to buy biltong because of its increase in popularity as an on-the-go snack.
The flavors are also rich because none of it is being cooked away with large amounts of heat, and it makes for a great snack for those who are watching their waistline.
Biltong is high in protein and could keep anyone who enjoys snacking satisfied with its low-fat percentage. It has a high shelf life even when the bag has been opened, and because it is cured over a period that easily lasts a week, it never loses its initial flavor.
Many manufacturers leave the option of fat on certain types of biltong for those who love to buy biltong in different varieties.
The best part of this traditional African snack is that the meat variants have now expanded to chicken, turkey, fish and bacon.
For those who prefer vegan, there are plant-based options known as “plantong” where vegetables such as eggplant are used to recreate a similar texture. Either way, there is an option for everyone who would like to enjoy this delicious snack, guilt-free.
How does biltong differ from beef jerky?
While the product may sound similar to beef jerky, there are some important differences.
Beef jerky is a classic cooked and dehydrated meat snack, made with salt and a handful of different seasonings. All the moisture is sucked out of the meat, which means it can hang around safely on the shelves for a long time.
Biltong, on the other hand, uses a mix of vinegar and deep, strong spices every step of the way, giving the meat that extra notch of flavor. It also packs a juicier punch, because it has a slightly higher amount of fat running through the meat. Beef jerky has less fat — hence why it can be drier (and tougher on the teeth).
When people taste it, there’s no doubt they’ll be reaching for the biltong just as they would any other treat in the store.