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Celebrate the World Cup with "A Bring & Braai"

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By Fresh Bites

With the 2018 World Cup in full-swing, a lot of attention is being placed on South Africa.  The people, the culture, and the wine are well known but the food is now getting international attention – particularly their form of barbecue, the “Braai”.

The word braai or plural braaie comes from the Afrikaan word for "barbecue" or "roast" and is an important social custom in South Africa and neighboring Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Zambia.   The word is used as a verb when describing how food is cooked and a noun when describing the grill or cooking equipment used.  Traditionally, wood was used as the primary fuel much like barbecue here in North America.  Eventually, this was replaced with charcoal.  However, in recent years, a return to the traditional wood method has seen a renewed interest.   It is uncommon to refer to a gas-powered barbecue as a braai.

An important part of South African culture in the long summer months is the traditional “bring and braai”, a pot-luck style gathering where the braai acts as a central gathering place and guests bring various items to cook.  There are many native South African foods guests might bring to such an event.  Boerewors are a traditional South African sausage whose name comes from the Afrikkaan words for farmer (boer) and sausage (wors).  Traditionally, this meat is cooked as a large coil of beef or pork sausage that has been seasoned with toasted coriander seed, salt, nutmeg, black pepper, and cloves. 

Another local specialty is Sosaties.  This delicacy involves the marinating of lamb overnight in a mix of fried onions, various hot chilies, garlic, curry leaves and the some tamarind juice.  Normally left to marinate overnight, it is then skewered and then cooked like a kebab on the braai.  Other items traditionally coked at a “bring and braai” include chicken, beef, and in coastal areas…lobsters.

While meat is an important part of a “bring and braai”, so too are the side dishes.  The traditional accompaniment to any good braai in South Africa is a porridge-like dish known as “pap”.  This dish is made from corn meal and is similar to polenta.  It can be served plain however, at a braai it is typically served with Monkey Gland Sauce.  Don’t be alarmed by the name, the sauce is actually a savoury condiment in South Africa made from chopped onion, garlic, ginger, homemade fruit  chutney, soy sauce, mustard, worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and in some recipes, a little wine.

Culturally, a braai is very similar to the stereotypical barbecue scenes we think of here in North America.  That’s right; the barbecue is the man’s domain.  At a typical braai, the men gather around the braai and cook the meats while women tend to gather indoors or adjacent the braai preparing salads and sides for the final meal.  Like most barbecues in North America, there is one man who is in charge of the cooking (referred to as the braaier) while the other men stand around and converse and comment on the quality of their cooking skills.  It just goes to show that the act of barbecuing, no matter where you are, follows a common international protocol.

And so, with the basics understood, and another couple of weeks left to the 2018 World Cup, why not try your own “bring and braai” at home?  To help, we have added a few recipes to turn your own backyard into a typical Cape Town or Johannesburg suburban bungalow.  Remember to pick up some South African wine too.  Now, as the locals would say…"Braaivleis!"

Recipe for Sosaties Lamb Marinade

Recipe for Monkey Gland Sauce


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