6928 104 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T6H 2L7
While traveling around Southern Africa, things like meat were often in short supply. After all, animals that are generally food inefficient, from a food mass consumed to food mass produced ratio, are a luxury in many of the impoverished areas. I, being an unapologetic carnivore, would have a tough time without a daily dose of protein. Thankfully, I had stocked up on a great selection of biltong before leaving SA – marinated, air dried strips of meat that came from a variety of animals – kudu, springbok, oryx, beef, ostrich, and other exotic animals. Unlike jerky, biltong is cured in vinegar, seasoned, and air dried. Many people who aren’t familiar with it are a bit taken a back at first, but it really grows on you. After leaving South Africa, I had particular cravings for several charcuterie items – predominantly chillibites, and biltong. Lucky for me, my best friend noticed a South African deli called Betsy’s Boerewors had opened up on Calgary Trail, and quickly investigated. Sure enough, they had all of our favorites, though with an Alberta twist – their products are mostly beef.
Betsy’s Boerewors are a family-run South African deli, and based on the number of ex-pat South African’s who shop there, they are either the best game in town, or the only game in town. They are very friendly, with samples of all their products to try. Very proud of their product and their heritage, they carry all your standard South African deli items – from boerewors and droewors, to biltong, chillibites, and pies. Boerwors are essentially fresh sausage. Their boerewors are fresh minced meat, well-seasoned, and loaded with a good amount of fat. Their garlic wors are even better – big garlic flavour. Both the droewors, which are cured and dried sausage sticks, and the aforementioned biltong are loaded with coriander flavour. However, the Chillibites are my favorites. Sticks of fatty, chilli seasoned beef that have been air dried – essentially edge strips of well marbled biltong that have been dried into the best pure beef version of a hot rod you’ve ever had. There is melt in your mouth striations of beef fat that attack your taste buds with bursts of beef essence, while your jaw gets a serious workout from the tough, with the grain beef cut, and some acidity and spice from the vinegar and chilli. These are one of the best snacks you can possibly have – no additives, great flavour, and preserved for easy consumption. Not that they last long. In parts around the world, they use biltong and chillibites for teething children. An expensive hobby to develop young for sure!
Other than charcuterie type items, they also serve a variety of pies, and accompaniments. Im not 100% sure if it is the British influence in Southern Africa, but many countries all serve versions of meat pie. Likely originally to disguise meat that was slightly off, staples like peppered steak, chicken and mushroom pies, curry chicken, and cornish pasties were commonly available, and generally quite excellent. The pies at Betsy’s are even better – as they use top quality ingredients, and they come in a sizeable portion for $4 – $4.50. These sizeable morsels are especially good right out of the oven, so keep your eyes open.
I’m not sure things like biltong and chillibites are for everyone. Definitely quite firm (though Biltong comes in moist, semi dry, and dry versions), the vinegary taste is definitely slightly different from the jerkys and other preserved meats we have here in North America. But I love it, and find them quite addictive. Most people I have introduced them to feel the same way. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, stop in, try a sample or two, and be prepared for a new flavour experience.