“What are you going to eat there?”; “What type of food do they have?” These questions were among the most popular from our friends and relatives over the months leading up to our temporary South African migration. Fortunately for us, there is plenty of excellent food to go around, and the dollar to rand ratio makes all these great meals very affordable. Trying new food is easily one of my favorite and most rewarding joys in life, and almost always ends well (Exception: I ordered abalone at a place in DC. Just could not eat it). So after stuffing our faces over the past few weeks with everything from traditional Afrikaner braais to the freshest, juiciest mango I’ve ever had, it’s time to share a sampling of our meals.
This was a smoked trout pie with a dill mustard sauce and a pedestrian-looking salad. Ordered from Charlie C’s in Dullstorm, the plate cost about $6 and was pretty filling. Nice flaky crust, really tasty trout and I easily dispatched the dill mustard with about a quarter of the pie left. We drove through town around lunch time and had to go for the trout, since Dullstrom serves as the gateway to South Africa’s fly-fishing capital. The dish gets three stars out of five.
Here is the breakfast served at the Woodsman Inn and Restaurant in Sabie. The meal was included with our stay, which was about $40 for one night in a serviceable little motel-style room. It was the first time I had British-style bacon in a couple years, and it was still delicious. The sausage in the middle was one of those processed ones with cheese that oozed out as you ate it. Not great but I cleaned my plate, obviously. Then you have your standard toast, eggs, and baked tomato. 2.5 stars out of 5 (Where are the baked beans!?).
Clockwise from top: Prego sandwich and fries, kale and chorizo stew, mozzarella and tomato open-face sandwich from a Portuguese café in Graskop called Canimambo. Everything here was $14 total, including tip. The prego sandwich is everywhere in South Africa. It traditionally comes with beef sliced fairly thin, or you can usually get it with chicken instead. The prego sandwich is all about the sauce. The meat is marinated and cooked in a Portuguese peri-peri-style sauce. Every prego I’ve seen comes with chips on the side, and you can get a simple version on the street or at a sporting event, or a dressed-up version at an upscale dinner spot. The mozzarella and tomato sandwich was disappointing, but the kale and chorizo stew was one of the best things I’ve had so far in this country. Secret to enjoying kale: cover it up with chorizo! Just as healthy, believe me. 3.5 kale leaves out of 5.
Here it is folks, the fruits of the first braai from the hands of Cici and Spencer Johnson. This was crafted at the Low’s Creek Lodge Cici wrote about here. After the large bonfire was allowed to burn for about an hour, I shoveled the glowing wooden embers from the bottom into a cement braai shelf set a few feet away. I was shoveling coals with flip flops on and now have a little scar on my right foot from burning myself with the shovel tip. My former safety-conscious employer would be very disappointed.
Once the coals were placed, we set a metal grate about 6 inches above the pile, and slapped on the curry boerewors, South Africa’s ubiquitous spiral sausage with an Indian twist, along with a couple big mushrooms and a green pepper over foil. The Lodge keeper Lesley was kind enough to fix us some pap (very similar to grits) with a simple tomato and onion sauce to round out the meal. He also dropped an Afrikaner taste bombshell on us that night: Hard cider with a pinch of salt. Try it one time and let us know what you think. The setting, company, and hard work made this meal an easy 4.5 out of 5 glowing embers.
And now for a nice home-cooked meal with gem squash, onions, hake fillet, and rice with chakalaka. Our landlord lent us a nifty portable grill/oven device that, powered by charcoal, cooked everything you see in the picture above at the same time save the rice and chakalaka. Chakalaka, a spicy, curry-ish mixture of vegetables was one of my favorite delicacies I missed from my last stint in South Africa. It’s usually served with pap or some kind of starch, but for me, I could eat it alone all day, every day. I do not do this because there would be serious gastrointestinal repercussions. This was a nice meal, completed by Carling Black Label (can’t get that in the States anymore!). 4 out of 5 old school beers.
The one thing I missed more than chakalaka? BILTONG. I love this stuff. It’s how South Africa does beef jerky, and it’s infinitely better than beef jerky. Notice the slightly pinkish hue in the middle of the cuts. On our road trip, I found the local butcher’s (slaghuis) I used to frequent in Piet Retief and ordered some of their fresh stuff. The beef, cured with vinegar and spices, is hanging in the back before it’s plucked of a hanger and shredded before your eyes. It’s the ultimate power snack (I enjoyed mine with some chipotle Tabasco here), and it fills you up quickly. Unfortunate side effect? Horrible biltong breath, according to Cici. I didn’t have to think about that when I was shacked up alone at the mine 5 years ago. 5 out of 5 cows.
That’s it for now. Cici and I will keep doing the difficult work of eating delicious food, and we’ll let you know when we come across anything else exciting.