South African Traditional Food – 4 local personalities weigh in
This piece was published by Mango Juice Inflight magazine, October 2013
When he lived in little village of Qunu, in the former Transkei, Nelson Mandela ate ukutya kwasekhaya or ‘home food’ like calabash fermented amasi (sour milk) and imifino (wild spinach and mielie meal). Through his adult years, while his tastes broadened culturally, Madiba always reverted to those tastes of home. When he interviewed Xoliswa Ndoyiya the woman who was to be his personal chef for over twenty years, he asked her one question, “Can you cook our food for my family?”
The concept of ‘our food’ is exceptionally powerful as a cultural reference and aggregator of memory, especially shared memories. I think now of birthday parties with pink fizzers and cream soda and afternoon snacks of roti rolls with my mother before my father got home for dinner. Special tastes I recall include sweet-tangy green mango curry, the Wednesday chicken curry ritual, dipping a ripe lemon slice in chilli powder and salt.
We asked some our top South African food personalities to share with us the traditional foods they love best.
Reuben Riffel, chef and restaurant owner (Reuben’s)
- My favourite traditional food: must be stamp en stoot. In winter I like white corn and bean stew with meaty bones. Curry brawn, pickled fish, green bean stew. All made by my mom
- For a lunch at home with friends I’d prepare: my Mom’s curry brawn and a much maligned humble iceberg lettuce salad, served with a South African Chenin Blanc.
Thuli Gogela, Food Technologist, Food Writer and Blogger at Mzansi Style Cuisine
- I really enjoy making: amarhewu which is a non-alcoholic maize meal beverage. It gives you energy and is delicious served chilled. I love it because I remember my aunt making it and it represents home. I also love uJeqe which is a steamed bread prepared with maize meal and flour.
- I hope the traditional way of making food: lives on.The preparation process sometimes requires patience as it takes time, like with the amarhewu. Patience needs to be taught as it’s a trait we are quickly losing in our generation.
- For a taste of home, Thuli recommends her place, the townships or Gold restaurant in Cape Town, AmaZink Eatery, Khayamandi Township, Stellenbosch and Max’s Lifestyle in Umlazi, Durban
Thando Moleketi, online editor of Jozi Foodie Fix and freelance writer
- My favourite traditional celebratory dish: is mogodu (tripe). If I were asked what I would want my last meal to be it would be mogodu with either dombolo (dumpling) or samp and a side of soet patat (candied sweet potatoes). The dish has a depth of umami that warms my soul. It does take a couple of hours to cook, so in my household we typically have it when there is a family celebration.
Thando’s Jozi mogodu restaurant recommendations:
In Soweto: Sakhumzi Restaurant, 6980 Vilakazi street, Orlando West http://www.sakhumzi.co.za/aboutus.html
In Alexandra: Mogodu Monday at 15 on 15th Avenue, Alexandra. There’s a house on 15 that sells mogodu, almost as good as Mom’s.
Kamini Pather, MasterChef South Africa 2013, winner
My top vegetarian traditional dish: would be a good palaak paneer (spinach and fresh curd cheese) with garlic naan. I love mopping up the thick spinach gravy with a piece of bread that will ultimately protect me from the vampires. Indian people have been vegetarian for centuries so it is no wonder that the cuisine has been well practiced and perfected.
Kamini’s favourite restaurant for palaak paneer: The Vintage, 20 Windermere Road, Durban www.vintagehotelandrestaurants.com
Dorah Sitole and True Love Magazine – Cooking from Cape to Cairo, Published: Tafelberg
Anna Trapido – Hunger for Freedom, Published: Jacana Media
Xoliswa Ndoyiya – Ukutya KwaseKhaya, Published: Real African Publishers
Traditional Foods, Modern Kitchen
- Wooden spoons have stood the test of time: to stir pap (Image – Kitchen Craft Java Collection spoon available Yuppie Chef)
- Jar: to store amasi and amarhewu. (Image: Eva Solo jar Avail from Yuppie Chef)
- Pestle and mortar to grind peanuts, spices, rice and samp (Image Kitchen Craft available from Banks Kitchen Boutique)