Thursday, May 26, 2016

Braai Barbecue South African Style

Barbecue is universal.  All it takes is good weather a grill,  and excellent cuts of meats. South Africans practically celebrate it with braai or grill in the Afrikaans language. It is an involved affair that features time honored recipes and good food.

Julia Moskin wrote about it as well as getting to try the recipes in yesterday's New York Times Food section. The issue featured everything fire grilled and barbecued . Braai fits right into this as it's beyond a national pastime , it's part of South African heritage, uniting everyone in this once segregated country. it is even celebrated as a recognized holiday on September 24th,or Heritage Day. Braai is an ancient technique, first being named shisa nyama, Zulu for burnt meat, and is done in every neighborhood, from shanty towns to villas.barbecuing has grown in popularity thanks to more supermarkets selling more affordable cuts and shows featuring it such as "Ultimate Braai masters" and  Siba's Table.It can be the everyday chicken or toasties, grilled cheese sandwiches to more elaborate steaks and sausages.Lamb ,beef and pork are among the most popular to be grilled.T-bone steaks Some even sell ostrich meat along with bok or antelope and wildebeest. Supermarkets even sell braai packs, although there are still many butcher shops here that sell customized cuts. where customers  can also buy  already cooked barbecue, red hot from the grill. There are even restaurants that feature braii and the side dishes that accompany it.

What makes a braai so delicious?It's the influences of different cultures on the cooking. Spices play a big role in the flavoring thanks to the influence of the area's Cape Malay population. These were the people transported to Africa's tip from Indonesia in the 17th and 18th Centuries.Many worked as cooks and their recipes and spices are still used today. They brought sweet chutney, fiery ketchups and grilled skewers along with different curries. Sosataties, a descendant of satays are also big on the braai menu. These are lamb chunks marinated in a tangy sweet jam and perfumed with fresh citrus or curry leaves. Peri-peri,a type of chili pepper that came with the Portuguese settlers from nearby Mozambique is a braai must have.. The South Africans also serve the highly spiced with coriander and cumin sausages called boerewors and use a salt rub called braii sout  seasoned with those same spices along with clove cinnamon and cumin.Brais aren't just about meats. Home barbecuers also throw corn on the grill, but it's not the mild ears that we serve. Theirs are full of heat and kick thanks to being rubbed with butter zested up with fresh , hot chiles, garlic and hot sauce. There is also umxhaxha, a mix of corn and squash simmered with salt sugar and cinnamon stew like dishes, umngqusho and chakalaka, made with  various veggies and more spices.

Braai just isn't a barbecue. It's South Africa itself, uniting a still fractured country with grilled meats and sides. Delicious , yes, but much more than that.

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