My last post was about the South African foods that I love – and I realize that I barely scratched the surface of what this country has to offer in good food. But now let’s focus on the stuff that I find ……well, not so good. As the quote says, “You have to take the bad with the good”, so – I’m gonna tell y’all about what South African foods I can live without.
Oh, bobotie. Seriously, folks, what is this stuff, and why? Nah, I know what it is but I’m trying to figure out whether the person who created this dish was: 1) stoned out of their ever-loving mind or 2) going through their icebox and decided to make a casserole out of everything that was going rotten. I’m just not sure why anyone thought that mixing ground meat, apricot jam, dried fruit and an egg custard was a good idea.
For those of you who are morbidly curious, here’s a link to a traditional bobotie recipe .
Sweet Chili Sauce and Tamatie Sous
South Africans seem to be very fond of two food items: first and foremost, MEAT. Second, sweet chili sauce. These are followed closely by…….meat covered in sweet chili sauce. And I’m not sure I get it. I mean, sweet chili sauce is okay, but I’m not tempted to put it on my table to use during every meal.
Let’s talk about tamatie sous (“tomato sauce”). This is South Africa’s version of ketchup, except it’s not what I know as ketchup. It’s very heavy on cloves and sugar. I guess it’s an acquired taste that I haven’t and won’t ever acquire. They do sell Heinz in the grocery stores (thank goodness for small favors) but if you’re in a restaurant, you’re out of luck. The servers always seem to be amused when I ask for ketchup. Even they know that tomatie sous isn’t really ketchup (wink).
This is another beloved South African food that I just can’t get into. Other countries have their own slightly different versions. For those who are unfamiliar with rusks, they are described by Wikipedia as a “hard, dry biscuit”. And they are very hard and very dry. Most of them seem pretty tasteless. The only way they can be consumed is either by sucking them for something like 24 hours straight (which is why they’re given to teething babies) or by dipping them in a hot drink. Then you have a nice little layer of sludge on the bottom to suck up when you’re done drinking your tea. Yum!
Livers of any sort
South Africans love their chicken livers, in whatever form or fashion they can get them. A popular dish here is chicken livers in peri-peri sauce. Peri-peri sauce is Portuguese in origin, and quite tasty. There are different versions, but the common ingredients in all versions are: crushed chili pepper, lemon, oil and red bell peppers. When the former Portuguese colonies in Angola and Mozambique broke up in the 1970’s, most of the Portuguese went to live back in their home country or Brazil, however, some relocated to South Africa. Because of this, South African food has picked up some influence from Portuguese traditional cuisine. In fact, the popular franchise restaurant Nando’s was started by a Portuguese man named Fernando Duarte.
Anyway, I digress. Back to livers. I’ll pass, thanks all the same. I realize that some who eat livers have no choice (better than starving, right?), and I hope they have a taste for them. As for myself? Let me put it this way – I once had an anatomy teacher who said: “I don’t eat liver. Ever. Why? Because it’s a filter for toxins.” Point taken, Mrs. Evans. Point taken.
Oh, I’m gonna get in trouble for this one. I realize saying this is tantamount to sacrilege. I’m not fond of boerewors (basically means “farmer sausage”). I don’t eat a lot of meat anyway, so it’s only troublesome at any and every braai (South African word for barbeque). As with tamatie sous, there is a profusion of clove flavor, in addition to coriander, nutmeg and allspice. Look, my South African friends – go to the US and you can taste those spices there, too – in apple pie! They’re so yummy in a pie. In a sausage? I don’t think so.
So, there you go – my complete list of (tried) South African foods, both loved and not-so-loved. Part 2 is probably going to offend someone, but just to let you know – Part 1 (the foods I like) is about 400 words longer than this part, and that’s a good sign, right? So much of South African food is incredibly tasty. I feel fortunate to live in a country with such a wealth of locally grown ingredients, and with so many incredibly talented chefs and cooks to prepare those ingredients! Bon Appetít, South Africa!