Zef chefs and their slutty koeksisters (South African food)
Alright, so I get it. When you hear "South Africa" the first images in your head are probably not food related. Most think of:
Which, okay, Nelson Mandela does own. Apartheid sucked, and unless you are a professional asshole, we can probably agree on this and move on.
Lately, ZA's gotten more press, so maybe instead of Mr. Mandela, this is what you think of:
Which was a pretty lekker movie, man. Science fiction as a platform for discussing ongoing social inequities. Deep shit or something.
Unfortunately there's also been some infamy at loud and irritating noises being generated by South Africans.
and of course
Me personally, I just think they're great ways to troll the shit out of people, so I can't hate that. But still man, we're talking about food...
It's time to talk about a cuisine that is near and dear to my heart. Food from a place that is defined by the movement of so many people, who over the span of hundreds of years have come to live alongside each other for better or worse. I'm not from South Africa, but even as an American, experiencing South African food helps to draw parallels on our own cuisine, and some truths that we take for granted. Like America, South Africa is a mashup of natives and indigenous peoples, cultures, and food traditions, with those of immigrants far and wide. It's a nation of fifty million, deriving heritage from Zulus, Xhosa, English, Dutch, Indians, Malays, and others. Languages intermingle (creating, for example, Afrikaans) people intermingle (a key census demographic in South Africa is "coloured", which has a different connotation than it does in the US, as it is a person of some quantity of mixed ethnicity between black and white).
It goes without saying that the food intermingles to, and in so many good ways! The land provides a bounty of wild game, which is surprisingly prevalent in the dishes. Wild boar and springbok are common everywhere from the weekend braai (grill) to thick & hearty stews called bredies. In other dishes like bobotie, Dutch cooking methods mingle with malay curry and chutney flavors to make a sweet & savory meat casserole. Corn, or mealies are a huge staple, in everything from a rustic bread baked in a dutch oven called potsbrood, to a grits-like porridge called mealiepap.
The good news? Most of the ingredients are easy to source for most folks. If you can't find a hunter friend with a wild game hookup (I usually trade whisky for portions of whitetail deer where I'm at) you can at the very least sub in beef or lamb in some dishes. Some ingredients that I make sure to order, however, are:
Also known as African Bird's Eye chilis, these are tangy and very hot. Usually you can find dried and powdered peri peri, or peri peri sauce on amazon. Used to best effect on grilled prawns on the braii with a bit of butter, almost like a buffalo sauce. Peri Peri has a distinct flavor that, while you can sub it out for something like cayenne, it won't be the same.
Waterblommetjies are a kind of water weed that grows in stagnant ponds and filled ditches. It looks a bit like a monster I admit, but they taste somewhere between spinach and olives, a rich and wonderful flavor. Used in a lot of bredies and similar stews.
Also they've been putting delicious food in bread bowls way before we've been overcharged for the same privilege for a cream of _____ soup. Bunny Chow fucking owns, haters:
Plus, did I mention they like to grill things?