Pap and Boerewors. Photo courtesy of Madiba Restaurant
You may not be able to watch the World Cup Soccer tournament in South Africa, but that doesn't mean you can't get a taste of that country's munchies (snacks), meals and drinks.
South Africans have nicknamed their food "Rainbow cuisine" to encompass the melting pot of cultures who have joined the indigenous people since the Dutch built a half-way stop in Cape Town for the Dutch East India Company. Next came the French Huguenots who planted vines that were the beginnings of the Cape Winelands. Sugar farmers in Durban brought laborers from India, others came from Malaysia. The British arrived looking for gold, as did Germans (though they staked their claim on South West Africa, now Namibia). Plus, the Portuguese, who colonized nearby Mozambique, brought the flavor of spicy peri-peri to South Africa on chicken and prawns (large shrimp).
But when it comes to watching soccer at home, all South Africans agree on one meal: The braai. Like a barbecue, a braai consists of grilling marinated meat like beef, pork or chicken over an open fire, but at a braai you will also find boerewors (a thick farm-style sausage) and pap (stiff maize porridge that has a consistency similar to polenta, but a more sour taste). It is served with a gravy made from tomatoes, onions and, sometimes, chillies. Beer, including the local Castle lager, Black Label, Lion lager or Windhoek lager (from Namibia), is also on offer. And, for posh soccer fans, add South African Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, from estates like Meerlust, Backsberg, Hamilton Russell and many more.
If a match takes place outside of mealtimes, you can be sure there are bowls of biltong (cured meat, similar to jerky), spicy peri-peri cashew nuts, dried apricots, and Rooibos tea served with Ouma rusks (large, hard cookies that are dunked in tea). If there isn't a South African food store near you and you're looking for the best in boerewors, biltong and its close neighbor droewors (dried boerewors sausage), or other South African condiments, chocolates or desserts, compare offerings and prices at Braaitime Gourmet Cured Meats, The South African Food Shop where owners Jan Conradie and Fanie Viljoen make their own boerewors, biltong, droewors and pork bangers according to Conradie's original farm recipe, Deli SA (their syrupy, plaited "koeksisters," sort of like a donut with a hard shell, are delicious), and African Hut.
If you would rather eat South African food out, head to one of the restaurants or wine bars that have found a home over here to cater to the tastes of expats and introduce Rainbow cuisine to foodies around the country.
In New York: Get your fill of pap and boerewors or prawns peri peri at Madiba Restaurant in Fort Greene. The restaurant, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary later this year, uses Nelson Mandela's nickname for its name and follows his spirit of "Ubuntu" by reinvesting a percentage of their proceeds to the people of South Africa via the charities they support. In Manhattan, 51st Street has become home to two South African establishments owned by the same team. Braai NYC is where you'll find traditional Oxtail stew, Sosaties (South African kebabs) and Ribbetjies (char-grilled pork baby back ribs which they serve with a Rooibos-chocolate glaze). Xai Xai Wine Bar offers more than 80 South African wines. Order the Kalahari Salad of dried fruits and cured meats to nibble on. On the Lower East Side, you'll find Durban fast food in the form of Bunny Chow -- a hollowed out piece of bread filled with delicious Indian-spiced curry.
In Los Angeles: Three friends, Graham Taylor, Robin McLean and Peter Walker, from Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, built themselves a sports bar. They will be screening all the World Cup soccer matches live at Springbok Bar & Grill -- beginning with South Africa vs. Mexico at 6:30am on Friday -- and serving up South African fare including Bafana Bafana Buffalo Wings (named for the South African soccer team). If you'd rather watch the game at home, pick up biltong or South African chocolates at European Deluxe Sausage Kitchen, 9109 W.Olympic Blvd in Beverly Hills (310-276-1331).
In Fort Lauderdale: Floridians head to Meal in a Pie, 4440 NE 20th Ave Oakland Park (954-202-9118), for the flaky pastry square filled with bobotie (curried beef with dried fruit). They also sell biltong and hot peri-peri sauce to go.
In Atlanta: South African cuisine has taken a chic turn at 10 Degrees South. Try the peri peri calamari and the bobotie spring rolls. Or head over to Cape Food and Beverage to pick up USDA-approved boerewors and braai marinades to use at home.
Now all you need to really feel like you're at the World Cup is a Vuvuzela!