Annually, South Africans around the world unite and celebrate our shared cultural heritage on the 24th of September (Heritage Day) with a braai – the country’s favourite pastime
While braais or chisa nyamas are a South African tradition, did you know that many countries around the world also have barbecues ingrained in their culture?
Samuel Nassimov, Founder and Managing Director of Premier Hotels & Resorts, has made South Africa his home over the past 30 years, but fondly remembers the delicious shashliks from his native land, Russia. He explains that this version of the shish kebab is cooked on a grill and is usually made using lamb, pork, beef, chicken or sturgeon. Skewers are threaded with meat either on its own or interspersed with vegetables like bell pepper, onion, mushroom and tomato.
A similar culinary concept to shashliks is shish taouk, which is enjoyed in the Middle East
Hailing from Israel, the hospitality group’s Chief Operating Officer, Sigal Geva, shares that these kebabs – made from marinated beef, lamb or chicken sausages – are eaten with pita bread, tahini, hummus, grilled hot chili peppers along with tabbouleh (a Levant salad) and pickles. In Hebrew, the word for braai is al ha’esh which, when translated directly, means ‘on the fire’.
Closer to home, Sous Chef at Premier Resort Mpongo Private Game Reserve, Nomfundo Nonkondlo, who is Xhosa, says that in her culture a barbecue is called umbengo. At these gatherings, beef, sausage, liver and various cuts of meat like intloko yegusha (sheep head) and tripe are cooked directly on top of the coals. “Normally we serve the meat on its own and some eat it with insonka samanzi (steamed bread) or samp, but everyone enjoys their food with jabulani (traditional beer).”
Born in historic Hampshire in the United Kingdom, the hotel chain’s Group Operations Manager, Richard Bray, says that backyard barbecues are quite popular in Britain, despite the country’s rainy reputation. Many households use steel-built kettle and range-style barbecues, but some homes have permanent brick structures.
Common foods cooked include chicken, hamburgers, sausages, beef steaks, corn-on-the-cob and vegetarian, soya based products. All major supermarket chains offer a range of barbecue products, but sadly availability is usually limited to the barbecue season (late spring to early autumn) – meaning that, for the rest of the year, people miss out on that special barbecue flavour.
Proudly Italian George Fonzari, known fondly as ‘Fonzi,’ is Premier Hotels & Resorts’ Strategic Partnership Manager. In his country, as in others that surround the Mediterranean Sea, barbecues are influenced by traditional Mediterranean cuisine with olive oil being a key ingredient. Often chicken, fresh fish or beef steaks are marinated with olive oil and citrus juice mixtures and then garnished with fresh herbs and spices. Fonzari says, “Any good Italian barbecue is finished off with an espresso or a grappa.”
Bring on the braai
Gawie Nel, the General Manager at Premier Resort Sani Pass, shares that foods served at a traditional Afrikaans braai include potbrood (pot bread), roosterkoek (balls of dough cooked on a grid over the coals), boerewors (sausages), sosaties (kebabs) and steak. Of course, no braai is complete without Kaapse braai broodjies (barbecued cheese, tomato and onion sandwiches) and potato salad.
“Feasting with friends and family around a fire unites all people despite our differences – the true aim of National Heritage Day,” concludes Nassimov.