To many, South African cuisine can appear like strange concoctions comprised of ingredients that really don’t belong together. That might be why Heston Blumenthal is such a fan (he talks about it here too)!
There is a dish for every mood: it can be comforting, spicy, fresh, exciting…and it’s constantly evolving. Some of it might appear unusual, but when you look at the history of each dish and understand how it came to be, I do believe that it makes you more open to experiencing the flavours. It only takes a brief look at the history of the country to understand why the cuisine has evolved in the way that it has!
From the seventeenth century onwards, South Africa became home for colonists from Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK. Indonesian and Indian slaves were brought to South Africa during this time, and their culinary style started to meld with the others, leading to the creation of popular Cape Malay dishes which often feature heavy spicing and dried or fresh fruit.
Certain regions of the country reflect these influences more than others – for example the French Hugenots were instrumental in developing the Cape Winelands, and thanks to a large population of Indian South Africans living in and around Durban, the curries in the Eastern Cape have become legendary! More recently, the influence of immigrants from China and Japan, as well as other African countries have also found their place in current food trends. Mix all this with the indigenous love of meat and vegetable dishes, and you start to get an idea of just how varied South African cuisine has become – and how it’s earned it’s reputation as ‘rainbow food’! Combine this with the availability of fresh seafood, fruit and vegetables, game meat and you’ll understand why South Africa has such an amazing culture of food.
Next week, I’ll be starting the food blog off with a popular and often controversial dish, known as bobotie…And I can’t wait to see your reaction to it!