Tag Archives: South Africa

Baobab BBQ: South African braai meets American BBQ

There has always been controversy over the meaning of the word “barbecue” – some people use it interchangeably with “cookout” – grilling burgers or other meats in the backyard, while purists would argue that “barbecue” only actually applies to meats cooked low and slow in a smoker. Barbecue gets even more complicated when you factor in usage in other countries. In South Africa, barbecue – in all senses of the word – is called braai. Now there is a place in Chicago to experience low and slow smoked meats with a South African braai twist, Baobab BBQ (2301 W. Foster Ave., Chicago, IL). The owner, Andrew Dunlop, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa was extremely friendly, and chatted with us after our meal. Dunlop was long obsessed with American BBQ, and brings his mix of American and South African sensibilities to the Baobab menu.

The main attraction at Baobab BBQ is the meat, you can pick a choice of pulled pork, brisket, or roast chicken. There is also the classic South African spiced beef sausage: boerewors. You can get a combination platter of various meat (Brisket, Pulled Pork, Ribs, Pulled Chicken, Hot Link- $19) or sandwiches on brioche rolls with slaw ($9). Sides are extra, and their signature side is mac and cheese with bacon. We ordered the boerewors sandwich and a pulled pork sandwich – both were excellent. The pulled pork was tender and juicy, and we liked the slightly-spiced boerewors, which was similar to a brat but had a flavor all of its own. There are a variety of sauces on the counter to top your meats with, including the intriguingly-named Monkey Gland sauce. We were assured that the monkey gland sauce was that in name only (it is actually a ginger, garlic and chutney-based sweet sauce). Other varieties include Bourbon, Kansas City-style and mustard sauce.

Though many of the meats are prepared in American style, other South African flavors permeate the menu. There is also a salad with a traditional South African biltong, a dried beef, topping the salad ($8). For dessert you can get South African classics ($5 each): melktert (milk tart) or Koeksusters (braided fried dough). We tried both of these desserts, the milk tart was a pastry crust shell with a delicately-flavored milky pudding, and the koeksisters reminded us of a crispy, syrupy churro. The last dessert, which we didn’t try on this visit, is another SA staple: Malva Pudding, an apricot cake covered in cream. Another nice added feature is that Baobab donates some of its profits to local schools. Baobab BBQ is a unique addition to the thriving barbecue scene in Chicago, and we appreciate the South African braai twist on US barbecue.

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Pastry Post-Doc: South African Milk Tart / Melktert

South Africa FlagThe worldwide appeal of sweet custard strikes again (Chinese egg tarts, Creme Brulee, flan, etc.) – this time in the form of one of South Africa’s signature dishes, the Milktart (or melktert in Afrikaans). Having Dutch roots that trace back to the 1600s, the melktert pie is a sweet milk and egg custard filling (sometimes flavored with cinnamon) in a pastry shell, topped with even more cinnamon (which was first introduced around the same time from Indonesia). The dish is similar to a pastel de nata or Chinese custard tart, but with fewer eggs. Being such a popular dish, there are countless versions on the classic milk tart, all with similar principles of cream in a pastry shell.  But with changing tastes, you can now find recipes for vegan or crustless milk tarts.

Milk Tart by Cinnamon Box

Milk Tart by Anna @ Cinnamon Box

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Fogo’s Peri Peri: Portuguese Chicken in Chicagoland

portugalMozambiqueSouth Africa FlagWhen we heard that there was a Peri Peri chicken place in Skokie we were pleasantly surprised. Peri Peri is a Portuguese/African dish of spicy peri-peri pepper marinated chicken, popularized in the US and throughout the world by the South African Nando’s chain. We had tried Peri Peri chicken before, but only at Nando’s, which coincidentally now has 2 locations open in Chicago (when Fogo opened there were no Nando’s in the area).

PeriPeri Fogo’s seemed to be set up in a similar mold to Nando’s. Like Nando’s you can order the type of chicken pieces you want (breast, thigh, etc.), and then select the sauce, ranging from a mild lemon to super spicy. Fogo’s boasts that all of their chicken is marinated for 24 hours. We thought the chicken was slightly more reasonably priced than Nando’s, and you can get a quarter chicken for less than $5. Other options include chicken wings and chicken strips, and a surprisingly large vegetarian section with many wraps and sandwiches filled with paneer (an Indian curd cheese). There were also some unusual sides, like yucca fries and corn on the cob. Customarily L ordered a quarter chicken with medium heat, and M ordered spicy (is there any other way?)PeriPeriYuca

There had been some previous complaints about slow service, but we thought it took only a little longer than a typical counter service place for the chicken to be grilled-to-order. This chicken was flavorful and well-spiced, and we appreciated the nice char from the grill. M was also happy that the spicy was actually pretty spicy! The sides were not as successful, so we suggest getting your fill of the finger-licking good chicken. We are happy to have another option for Portuguese chicken in the Chicagoland area. Nando’s fans will be happy to know that Fogo’s is comparable to Nando’s (one can’t help but compare), but with more reasonable prices and more vegetarian options.

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Exploring the Camden Lock Global Food Market

united_kingdom Many visitors to London, so we are told, cap their trip with a leisurely boat ride along the Thames – a journey which, surely, will take you to some fine culinary destinations. But – and this knowledge is thanks to a trip from our well-traveled friend Robin – London also possesses a series of small navigable canals in the central and northern parts of the city. You can ride, as we did, a British longboat from the back of Paddington Station to the Camden Lock, a leisurely ride through London’s “Little Venice” that took us by grand estates, leafy parks and an assortment of floating homes and cafes. And, prize of prizes, the boat will drop you off at what may be one of our favorite food markets ever: Camden Lock Market.

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Camden Lock Market is large, with a wide range of stores, restaurants, and shops that can get very crowded and touristy. But at this end, nearest to the boat dock, you find “Global Kitchen,” which features a plethora of appealing and appetizing food stalls around a gridded series of walkways. Even at the odd hour of 3 pm, this place was jam packed (the market is open 10am-6pm most days). Our first reaction? Overwhelming. It took half an hour just to find all the options available: Japanese noodles, Argentine grilled meats, Peruvian snacks, West African meals, kielbasa, vegan wraps, paella, cookies, piadina, and more. Everything- and we mean everything- looked good!???????????????????????????????

Choices, choices. L finally opted for South African bunny chow at Boerie en Bunny (£5.5). Operated by a woman who wins the award for genuinely nicest person we have ever met, Boerie en Bunny serves South African curries and fish stews over your choice of rice or “Bunny Chow” – a hollowed out roll (bun – get it?), stuffed with your order. We went with a rich and deeply flavorful spicy goat curry, topped with yogurt and fresh cilantro – a choice that was only made after our amiable friend forced us to try all the options she had available, and then asked us to stay just to taste a her seafood stew (fantastic, and very reminiscent of a Brazilian moqueca).

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Next, we opted to reminisce about our 2011 Istanbul trip with a Turkish lahmacun at Istanbul lahmacun (£5), a pizza-esque dish topped with ground lamb. Lahmacun are a very popular street snack in Istanbul, and we had the good fortune to try a few while were there. The stall owner, from Istanbul herself (authenticity points!) was very happy to learn we enjoyed her hometown, and eager to talk about her life experiences and food in London. The good food matched the owner’s ambiability: our lahmacun was huge, covered in ground lamb, yogurt and veggies, which made for a filling and delicious main course.

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Finally, for dessert we had one dozen Dutch poffertjes (aka “Dutch Pancakes”; £3.5) from a stall of the same name. These little puffs have the appearance of mini dough UFOs or slightly flattened donut holes. The gentleman manning the stall (see photo below) was a complete pro: flipping the poffertjes in the special pan at a lightning speed with a pair of chopsticks. Of course we could not resist topping them with Nutella.

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We ate a lot of street food in London, but the Camden Lock Market was our hands-down favorite! If you are looking for cheap, good food in London you absolutely must go. You can get there by tube, but the boat is even more fun.

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A Tribute to Nelson Mandela’s Favorite foods

South Africa FlagAs you have surely heard by now, Nelson Mandela passed away yesterday at the age of 95 after a long illness. The great humanitarian was a multifaceted man, and often spoke of food in both the literal and metaphorical sense. Speaking of one of his favorite dishes, amasi (traditional South African fermented milk), Mandela wrote to his wife Winnie from prison:

“How I long for amasi , thick and sour! You know darling there is one respect in which I dwarf all my contemporaries or at least about which I can confidently claim to be second to none – healthy appetite.”

Nelson Mandela and his chef Xoliswa Ndoyiya

Nelson Mandela and his chef Xoliswa Ndoyiya

His personal chef since 1992, Xoliswa Ndoyiya, published a cookbook, “Ukutya Kwasekhaya: Tastes from Nelson Mandela’s Kitchen,” filled with his favorite recipes. “Ukutya Kwasekhaya” means home “home cooking” in Xhosa, Nelson Mandela’s first language, and the recipes in the book exemplify the hearty and delicious home cooking of South Africa: sweet chicken, umphokoqo (corn porridge), and umsila wenkomo (oxtail-stew).

However, this isn’t the only book about Nelson Mandela and food. Anna Trapido’s book “Hunger For Freedom” weaves stories about food into Mandela’s biography. Trapido’s book includes recipes by other chefs that were among Mandela’s favorites, including stuffed crabs and chicken curry. I think we will try some recipes in tribute.

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“Bean Everywhere”: A video ode to Scandinavian and Turkish Coffee


denmark_flagsweden_flagturkeynorwayWe recently wrote about the vibrant coffee culture in Scandinavia, particularly Norway. Adding credence the near-mythic status of Scandinavian coffee is “Bean Everywhere” a wordless video tribute to Scandinavian coffee by the South African Coffee publication, The Coffee Mag, with the much different Turkish coffee in the mix as well. If you are a coffee lover it is definitely worth a watch.

Shops featured in the video:

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September 5, 2013 · 8:25 AM

Braai, National BBQ Pastime of South Africa

South Africa FlagThough in the United States BBQ may seem as American apple pie, it has a special place in the national consciousness of many countries, none more so than in South Africa. Braai (rhymes with “cry”) literally means “barbecue” or “grill” in Afrikaans, and is a venerable tradition among all South Africans. South Africa even has a national Braai Day, September 24th of every year. While braai refers to the grill, which is almost always wood or charcoal (sorry, no propane here!), it also refers to the event itself, much like barbecue does in the US. A real braai typically includes a heap of meat, a wood grill, icy cold beverage and large group of friends. For the newbie, here’s some braai advice from the king of Braai in South Africa.

Boerwoers on the Braai

Boerewors on the Braai by André van Rooyen

So what do you bring to a braai? The answer is, predictably: it depends, but it seems like nearly anything goes. Though you may grill anything from kebabs to chicken, steaks, fish (in coastal areas); something quintessentially South African is boerewors. Boerewors are a type of spiced beef (sometimes mixed with pork) sausage that is native to South Africa, and is typically found in a coil formation, as seen above. If you find yourself in Wisconsin on Braai Day you can even find South African-style Boerwoers in MilwaukeeOr for the intrepid, make your own boerewors from scratch.

Sosaties on the Braai

Sosaties on the Braai by MacDara Conroy

Never fear though, even if you don’t have boerewors, you can still have a perfectly respectable braai. Sosaties, or grilled kebabs, usually made with lamb, are a favorite choice for a braai. Another classic non-meat braai dish is pap, a sort of South African polenta made with cornmeal. Yuppiechef has a nice version of Stywe pap with a tomato relish. For more inspiration, Cook Sister has a great description of Braai culture, as well as a great roundup of recipes, both classic and modern. Summer is still going strong, and we are looking forward to adding some Braai flavor to our next barbecue.

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The International Origins of Nando’s Peri-Peri

Over at Africa is a Country, our favorite African news and opinion site, historian Sarah Emily Duff has a fascinating write-up on the multinational origins of Nando’s Peri-Peri, a self-described South African peri-peri chicken joint with locations throughout Africa (including Gaborone, capital of Botswana, from where she writes this piece), Europe, and a few in the USA. M visited a location in Washington, DC last year, and raved about the food. Now, we have a much greater understanding of the surprisingly complex history of the chain, with ties to Portugal, Mozambique, South Africa, and the UK during the second half of the 20th century. We’ll take all this cultural learning with us when we return to the DC Nando’s again in October!

Nando's peri-peri chicken with extra spicy sauce, rice, and cole slaw in Washington, DC.

M’s favorite: Nando’s peri-peri chicken with extra spicy sauce, rice, and cole slaw in Washington, DC.

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Portugal / South Africa / Mozambique: Nando’s Peri-Peri

Nando’s Peri-Peri
819 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Nando’s is a South African restaurant chain with locations throughout DC and Maryland, serving up a signature Portuguese/Mozambican speciality: peri-peri (pronounced “piri-piri”) chicken. Peri-peri is the local name for an African Bird’s Eye Chili, grown throughout sub-Saharan Africa. How the pepper came to Portugal is a mystery, but eventually Portuguese and Mozambican (Mozambique being a former Portuguese colony) culinary exchanges gave rise to a peri-peri sauce made from the pepper. The sauce is a staple on southern African and Portuguese tables, and is applied liberally to chicken breast grilled over a spit: peri-peri chicken. Nando’s was founded by members of South Africa’s Portuguese-Mozambican community, and has since expanded to 30 restaurants on 5 continents. Unfortunately, they have only recently made inroads in the USA, and only in the DC metro area. That is unfortunate, Nando’s definitely hits the spot for your stateside peri-peri craving and is well worth a visit.

On a recent trip to DC, M visited Nando’s Chinatown location (hence the Chinese characters on the sign) – probably their most popular location in the city. Nando’s logo is a representation of the Rooster of Barcelos, the Portuguese national symbol, and appropriate here because the rooster’s large eye makes one think of the Bird’s Eye Chili.

Nando’s does an excellent job of serving up presumably fast food in an upscale setting. Wood paneling and good lighting make for a sophisticated interior, and a central plexiglas wall – actually filled with dried peppers – is a nice touch. The walls are decorated with original works from South African artists, part of Nando’s ever-expanding art collection (now 4,000 pieces) which also offers scholarships to young artists back in Africa. The uniqueness of the food and their commitment to the arts really made me want to like this place, so it is lucky the food delivered.

For the relatively upscale vibe, the ordering is simple. You can choose from many entrees, but if we are being honest (and we always are) there is no point in getting anything besides the chicken: pick a half or whole breast, choose your spiciness level, and choose between 0 and 3 side dishes. I selected the extra spicy chicken (of course), with sides of Portuguese rice and a mayo-heavy coleslaw, to reduce the heat from the chicken if need be. After ordering they give you a cute table marker and you proceed to your spot, waiting for the food to be delivered to you.

The chicken was – and I cannot overstate this – perfect. Grilled to perfection with just the right amount of marinade, Nando’s then lathered on the peri-peri to add the extra heat I requested. But the flavors come through as well: peri-peri is a complex sauce, loaded with spices and contrasting flavors, and Nando’s variety brought out all the high notes from the pepper as well as the other ingredients. I thought these paired nicely with the rice, which was satisfying though underwhelming. I probably would not get the coleslaw again: it was very good as far as coleslaw goes, but the menu was correct in suggesting it would cut off the heat, which it did almost too well. Next time, I’d order something not as heavy as a side, reserving the slaw for less spice-inclined diners. Overall, for under $15, this was a steal for a weekday lunch. I hope Nando’s is able to expand and open up more locations in the USA, because they would do well given their business model. But if they stray from their signature sauce and effective grilling as a result of the expansion there will be major issues. I’m just thrilled to see good, fast, transnational cuisine like this making inroads in the USA – for now, if you are in the DC area, definitely stop by for a great lunch!

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Recipe for South African Sosatie Chops

It’s the return of recipe Friday! This recipe comes from Faldela Williams’ Cape Malay Illustrated Cookbook. This slim volume covers the unique South African Cape Malay cuisine, developed by the descendents of Indian immigrants to South Africa ( a population known as the “Cape Malays” ) We think this book is probably intended for kids owning to the whimsical illustrations, but no matter – we like it too! Our entree into cooking south african food is the sosatie – a traditional barbecued kebab dish that has many permutations (as all good national dishes do). This particular version is made with pork chops instead of pieces of meat.

p.s. Sorry, the directions are all in metric! Convert here.

Sosatie Chops

Ingredients
1kg lamb chops
2 large onions, thinly sliced

Marinade
10 ml crushed garlic
3 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
5 ml tumeric (borrie)
30 ml curry powder
10 ml roasted masala
45 ml sugar
7 ml salt
60 ml lemon juice or white grape vinegar

Combine the marinade ingredients and marinade chops for one hour. Place meat and marinade in a saucepan with onions and cook, covered, over medium heat for 45-60 minutes, or until meat is tender. Serve with boiled squash and mashed potatoes.

This recipe was super easy to make – and it was absolutely delicious. The marinade itself was extremely intense (in a good way) spiced but not at all spicy. We expect it would be good for other meats like chicken as well – or beef kebabs.

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BBQ Tour: Zunzi’s South African eats

South Africa Flag Zunzi’s
108 E York St
Savannah, GA

Throughout our eating adventures we hadn’t yet come across a South African restaurant, so it serendipitous that we found Zunzi’s, a South African lunch spot in Savannah, whilst on our prolific BBQ tour. Zunzi’s is tucked into a cute brick building in a quiet street of Savannah (which is a pretty cute place full of cute brick buildings). Tired and sweaty traveler be forewarned, though, Zunzi’s is only a stand-up counter, so you have to take your food to go or eat it outside on the patio.

zunextInside, Zunzi’s is  barely bigger than a breadbox, though there is just enough room for the extensive menu to be written above the counter. The menu boasted a variety of South African-inspired favorites like a Boerewors sausage sandwich (5.95) and an assortment of salads and entrees, with a special section dedicated to vegetarian options. M ordered the Old Indian town Curry Curry Stew (7.50), influenced by the sizable South Asian population in South Africa, while I opted for the Conquistador Roast Chicken Sandwich (7.50), an admittedly more Americanized choice. When our food arrived we were absolutely shocked by the portions, each was big enough for 2 hungry eaters (and we were). Take a look at that curry!  M enjoyed the hearty pea, carrot and potato curry, though it might have been a little mild for his fire-breathing tastes. My chicken sandwich was basically the size of a whole baguette, as you can see below, and was completely overstuffed with fresh roasted chicken. I especially liked the 2 mystery dips on the side – one was a riff on a tangy thousand island, and other was a creamy garlic sauce.zunchik

Even though it was sweltering outside, we decided to rest our feet at the outside patio, which was decked out with rainbow umbrellas. We were joined by an array of lunching Savannah College of Art and Design summer school students, also enjoying some midday nosh. With the breeze, despite the Georgian heat, it made for a quite pleasant lunch al fresco. We can definitely understand who they attracted a bustling lunch crowd. The first question we were asked when we relayed our daytrip to Savannah was if we visited Paula Deen’s restaurant – well, we saw the building – but give us the gut-busting portions at Zunzi’s any day.zuncur

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Recipe Friday: South African Yogurt Dip

South Africa FlagWe liked the last dish from Marcus Samuelsson‘s book so much we decided to give it another try this week. M is a big fan of yogurt sauces, so we were intrigued by a recipe for a yogurt sauce introduced by Indian immigrants to South Africa during the late 19th century. The dish is intended to take some of the heat off the spicy South African fare, while adding a good dose of tangy flavor at the same time.

Ingredients (Makes 1 1/2 cups):
3 cups plain yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 two-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 chili (he recommends jalapeño), seeded and finely chopped
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Juice of 2 limes
2 tsp. chopped cilantro
2 tsp. chopped parsely
Salt and fresh black pepper

Set a fine-mesh sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth over a bowl (we used our colander and a sturdy paper towel). Add the yogurt, cover with plastic wrap, and let drain at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or leave in a refrigerator overnight. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili and saute until the garlic is golden (about 5 minutes). Add the coriander and cumin and saute until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Let cool briefly, then transfer to a blender, add the lime juice and drained yogurt, and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cilantro and parsely. Season with salt and pepper.

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We have to say, this yogurt sauce is fantastic. Its smooth and tangy, with just the right combination of spices. It would be great on a salad, or wrapped in a gyro with grilled steak or chicken strips. It should store well for at least four days, so we will have to cook up some dishes later this week that make use of our new culinary find. The best part? 7-minute preparation time, all from ingredients we usually have readily available – only cumin was esoteric enough to warrant a grocery trip. We’ll definitely be making this again, possibly alongside another recipe from this great book.

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