South Africa: A melting pot of curry
When it comes to comfort food, South Africans love their curries! And the many different ways we like to cook and serve our curries are as diverse as our rainbow nation.
Fruity and full-bodied Cape Malay cuisine
The distinctive and authentic flavour of Cape Malay curries comes from a special blend of spices known as Cape Malay curry powder. These curries are famous for their fruity and full-bodied flavours, making use of local vegetables, meat and fish. Capetonian blogger and Come Dine With Me SA winner Imtiyaaz Hart says Cape Malay curries are a taste of home. They’re cooked for weekday family meals as well as on special occasions such as Eid, weddings and funerals. Imtiyaaz’s secret ingredient whenever he makes a Cape Malay curry is apricot or peach jam. “It brings a sweet flavour to a curry that reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen.”
Hot and spicy Durban curry
The bunny chow is one of South Africa’s best-loved street foods. Cookie Naidoo of family-owned Jimson’s Takeaway, famous on the North Coast for their bunny chows, says the key to a perfect bunny chow is fresh but firm white bread that’s crusty on the outside but soft on the inside, as well as freshly cooked curry with plentiful, thick gravy and firm yet soft potatoes.
“A bunny should have a lot of gravy to soak into the bread – but times have changed, these days many customers ask for less gravy or ask us to pack the extra gravy separately because they don’t like the bread to get too soggy,” Cookie remarks. The base of Durban curry is hot chilli powder, green chillies, curry leaves and a fragrant masala mix. Cookie laughs: “Durban curry is very hot, but I think the heat in Durban makes it even hotter!” Traditionally bunny chow is served with a spicy pickle and a carrot, onion and green chilli salad drenched in vinegar. Cookie explains: “In the days before refrigeration, the salad had to stay crunchy throughout the day – vinegar preserved it in the heat.”
One table, seven colours
Journalist, chef and blogger Duenna Mathebula-Mambana says curry reminds her of family celebrations. “Beef curry is my favourite! When I make it, I add celery, carrots and lots of potatoes, which is how my mother used to make it.” Duenna serves her homestyle South African curry with rice pilaf or idombolo (dumplings), which she sometimes cooks in the same pot as the curry. “After church on Sunday we have a big meal in the form of ‘seven colours’, so I serve curry with idombolo, creamed spinach, honey-glazed carrots and beetroot,” she says. “It’s a heavy meal but it’s Sunday kos, so why not go big?”