cape malay food

Bianca (admin at African Heart Travel) went on to try a Malay cooking class in Bo-Kaap district; she tells you all about this unique fun experience.

Unique to the Western Cape of South Africa, Cape Malay cuisine fuses African traditional food with that of the Malaysian and Indonesian flavours brought over by the Dutch slaves in the early 18th century. A blend of spices (ginger, fennel, star anise, tamarind, and turmeric) gives the food a distinctive aromatic quality. Stews, roasts, and sauce-heavy curries are popular in Malay cuisine.

Within the predominantly Muslim neighbourhood of the Bo Kaap, with houses painted every colour from hot pink to lime green and orange, lies the home of Faldela; who will be our host and culinary teacher for the afternoon. A local food lover, she is one of several women in the area offering informal cooking classes out of her home and waits to greet us with a warm smile on her doorstep.

Infusing her lesson with interesting bits of information into her cultural ways and customs, Faldela shows us the difficult task of folding onion-and-cheese-filled samoosas. With patience she demonstrates how to sprinkle heaped spoonsful of spices over a saucy onion base for chicken curry (it’s more about the feel than learning exact recipes, she explains). We learn how to prepare the dough for home-made roti (a buttery, flaky flatbread) and deep-fried dhaltjies (a small round chilli bite).

We slice, fold dough and laugh our way through the 2.5 hour lesson as she chatters away about how meals play a central role in religious ceremonies and how curry should always be cooked with the lid off. How she, and the vast majority of other Malay women, first acquired the tricks of the trade from their mothers and grandmothers, passed down through the generations.

As our lesson winds down, we sit down around her kitchen table and enjoy the feast before us in a delightfully social setting. We end the afternoon strolling through the cobbled streets of the Bo Kaap, our bellies full and having a sense of fulfilment that comes with an authentic Cape experience.

Wanna try it out? Ask us, we will include this authentic experience to your next trip to South Africa. Check out our amazing itinerary in Cape Town with friends.