Traveling Taste Buds: Infuse your Holiday with South African Flavor


The holidays are a time to get together with family, and if there’s one thing my family loves, it’s food. Every year from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, it’s considered insurance to buy a pair of pants one size up and be ready to indulge in the flavors of the season. My family loves to go exotic, and infuse as many ethnic and new dishes into our traditional dinners as possible, something I always look forward to. We’ve hit nearly every continent when it comes to cuisine, but one has been left untouched: Africa. This was remedied this year when I attended the Celebrate the Distinctive Flavors of South Africa event in Macy’s Herald Square.

Attending this event, in Macy’s fabulous DeGustibus Cooking School, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What exactly is South African cuisine? What are their flavors? Other than the decadent Malva Pudding, I really had no idea. As soon as I walked in I was greeted with a South African Sauvignon Blanc, truly the most direct avenue to my heart. If these were the flavors of South Africa, I was already sold.

Chef at Johannesburg’s Radisson Blu Hotel, and national finalist of the Peroni Chef Competition (among many other accomplishments) Chef Wamukelwe Zuma, Chef Wamu for short, was introduced as our gourmet Sherpa for this edible excursion. Through our courses, he shared with us the story of how he became a chef, starting out in advertising and marketing, then changing course at 20. Chef Wamu trained at Capsicum Culinary Studio, graduating top of his class, and has made it his personal mission to share South Africa’s food and wine culture. Who better to be our culinary tour guide?

Three courses were prepared, each paired with a wine from the region. We started with the Chicken Bunny Chow, which, incidentally, does not involve rabbit. Traditionally a street food, the name is derived from the word bania, the merchant people who would serve this. The chow, served over a fluffy bread, is reminiscent of a curry in flavor. Chef Wamu recommends marinating the chicken in yogurt overnight for optimum tenderness. Paired with the 2009 Raats Chenin Blanc, light and clean, the perfect complement to this dish.

Next Chef Wamu prepared a Beef Bobotie, minced beef dish with an egg custard topping. The curry flavors in both this and the previous dish come from the influence of the large Indian population of South Africa, which resonates in much of South African cuisine. As he prepares this dish, Chef Wamu passes on a cooking tip: Avoid using water in recipes.  Water tends to dilute flavors, whereas milk of broth add and enhance flavors. Milk is used to soak the bread for the topping in this recipe, and I will be sure to avoid water from now on! With this course we had a delicious 2007 Rudi Schultz Syrah. Boysenberry flavors were at the front of this Syrah, which made me it’s biggest fan. I may have a bit of a boysenberry bias.

Considering the only experience I’d previously had with South African cuisine was Malva Pudding, sweet was the only flavor I knew. The dessert really showcased the South African sweet tooth with the Cinnamon Koeksister. These start as short servings of braided dough, which Chef Wamu demonstrated with the help of our own editor Candice Sabatini.

Prepared in a citrus syrup, these were decadent, the braided dough soaking up the syrup. Sided with an Amarula ala anglaise, and a shot of Amarula, South Africa’s answer to Baileys, this was the perfect end to a perfect meal.

I can’t wait to take my own holiday party on a safari through the flavors of South Africa. I highly recommend trying one of these recipes for your own holiday get together.

Chicken Bunny Chow
2 ¾ lbs of Chicken
1 tbsp Canola Oil
1 Onion (Chopped)
1 cup of Yogurt
2 tbsp of Lemon Juice
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Cardamom Pods
3 Green Chilies
Grated Ginger
Crushed Garlic
1 tbsp of Chili Powder
½ tsp Turmeric Powder (or Saffron)
1 tsp of Cumin Seeds
1 Potato (Peeled and Quartered)

1. Mix the yogurt, lemon juice, coriander, garlic, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, chili, cumin, saffron, chili
powder, tumeric and fried onions into bowl.
2. Dice the chicken into small cubes and marinate in yogurt mixture for one hour.
3. Place all ingredients in a pot and cook thoroughly for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
4. Add potatoes and cook until potatoes are tender.
5. Serve in hollowed out bread.

Beef Bobotie

Beef Bobotie:
1 Slice of White Bread (Crust Removed)
2 Onions (Finely Chopped)
1 cup of Milk
2 tbsp of Canola Oil
1 tsp Grated Garlic
1 tsp Crushed Ginger
2 ¼ lbs of Ground Beef
3 tbsp of Mild Curry Powder
1 tbsp of Smooth Apricot Jam
1 Extra Large Egg (Beaten)
Fresh Lemon and/or Bay Leaves

1 Egg
½ cup of Cream
½ cup of Yogurt
½ cup of Milk
Turmeric (or Saffron)

1. Preheat oven to 350 Fº.
2. Place the bread in shallow container and add milk. Leave bread soaking for 10 minutes and mash it with a fork.
3. Fry onion until softened. Add garlic and ginger and fry for one minute.
4. Sprinkle curry powder and cook off spice. Add ground beef and fry until browned.
5. Stir in apricot jam and remove from heat.
6. Add egg and stir in cream.
7. Place meat mixture into mixing bowl and add mashed bread.
8. Mix together lightly with a fork.
9. Spoon the mixture into a greased baking dish and smooth out the top.

1. Beat egg and stir in cream, yogurt, and milk.
2. Add turmeric, saffron, water, and season well with salt and pepper.
3. Cover ground beef with mixture and bake in oven for 45 minutes or until the custard is set.

Cinnamon Koeksister in Citrus Syrup with Coconut Shavings, Candied Seasonal Fruit & Crème ala Anglaise

2 cups and 3 tbsp of Cake Flour
2 tsp of Baking Powder
6 tblsp of Milk
1 Egg
6 tblsp of Margarine
¾ cup and 1 tblsp of Water
4 tblsp of Cinnamon Powder

Amraula ala Angliase:
6 Large Egg Yolks
2 cups and 5 tsp of Double Cream
2 cups and 5 tsp of Full Cream Milk
1 cup of Amarula

Citrus Syrup / Candied Fruit:
5 Oranges
7 oz of Castor Sugar
Toasted Coconut Shavings
Fresh Orange Segments

1. Sift the flour, salt and cinnamon into a mixing bowl and add margarine to dry ingredients.
2. Beat the egg and milk together.
3. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and knead dough.
4. Refrigerate dough for approximately one hour.
5. Roll out dough to a quarter inch thick, and cut into strips that are three and a half inches long and one inch wide. Cut each strip into three sections
6. Plate the dough and press ends together
7. Deep fry with vegetable oil until golden brown and drain oil on paper towel.
8. Dip koeksister into clod syrup and sprinkle with coconut shavings.

Amraula ala Angliase
1. Beat egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Warm milk and double cream together and add to the egg and sugar mixture.
3. Pour entire mixture back into the pot, add Amarula, and stir over low heat until your custard thickens to perfect consistency (Note: Be careful not to
scramble the eggs).
4. Dust orange segments with castor sugar and in a non-stick pan, caramelize and serve.

Citrus Syrup
1. Over low heat, squeeze oranges, zest orange peel, and mix with sugar, and water (preferably with vanilla essence).
2. Reduce to a syrup consistency and cool completely.

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