What Are South African Slap Fries And What Makes Them Unique?

One of the greatest things about potatoes is that you can use them to make french fries. According to the Idaho Potato Commission, Americans eat more than 4.5 billion pounds of these fried spuds yearly. That's a lot of french fries, but you do have to admit that they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't enjoy their hot, deep-fried, salty, and crispy goodness.

There are frites or chips or fries, and then there are slaptjips, pronounced 'slup chips.' Slap chips are the South African version of french fries. The word "slap" in Afrikaans means "limp, flabby, or soft." This delicacy of the Rainbow Nation is best described as slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It may seem like a unique way to eat fries, but in South Africa, slap chip stands and vendors are as ubiquitous as taco shops in the U.S. You can find them on every corner. They're also one of the main ingredients in a Cape Town favorite, the Gatsby sandwich.

What sets these apart from other fries? The extra steps that are taken to ensure they come out perfectly slap: as soft and droopy as possible.

Vinegar and condensation are the key

While fries, chips, pommes, frites, etc., are often made with the goal of frying them up as crispy as possible, that's not the case with slap fries. Closer in appearance to steak fries (which can be polarizing), the major difference in this South African snack is the outside texture. A steak fry is still crisp and firm, whereas a slap fry is barely crisped at all, resulting in a limp and soft final product. Understandably, thicker-cut potatoes work best here.

Russet potatoes are ideal for creating the best South African slap fry. They cook in oil like other fries, but there are specific differences in the process. For one, they're soaked in water or vinegar for up to 10 minutes before cooking, and two, they're cooked at a lower temperature for a longer period.

Their slapness (softness) occurs after they're taken out of the deep fryer or pot of oil. You can either cover them or put them in a closed container for a couple of minutes, while the moisture that occurs during this step will help keep the fries nice and limp. Lastly, pour or drizzle vinegar on the fries, and then sprinkle some salt over top.

Want to feel like you're eating your slap fries like a local? Sprinkle on some chili powder or masala, or put them between two slices of bread. They may not replace your crispy fast food faves, but you could end up surprised at how tasty the slap fry can be.