“Ons gaan nou braai!” – Afrikaner saying
It means “a braai is not a barbecue”. Braai (bray), is a South African cultural institution. Like the Argentinean asada, American backyard cookout, or Korean gogigui, it is built on community than just an outdoor cookout.
What makes braai so special is that it is all about bringing good friends and family together around a shared celebration. There is always some excuse for holding a braai, whether it’s to celebrate a wedding, birth or death, or just because. Everyone brings meats and sides to share, called “Bring & Braai”, it’s basically the same idea as the North American Potluck.
Meats include beef boerewors and pork sausages, kebabs, chicken and steak with fish and other seafood added on the coasts. Must-have sides include pap (cornmeal porridge), Mieliepap terts (corn-bacon & mushroom pie), garlic bread or braaibroodjies (grilled cheese, tomato and chutney sandwiches), and, of course, chakalaka.
To understand how important braai is to the nation, consider this; it even has its own national holiday dedicated to it on the 24th of September called National Braai Day.
It all started by the Voortrekkers (Afrikaans for “pioneers”), disgruntled Afrikaner farmers descended from the original settlers working for the Dutch East India Company. Unhappy with many aspects of British colonial rule, they migrated east from the then-British occupied Cape Colony off the coast of South Africa in the 1830-40s. They travelled with ox-drawn wagons and horses, which meant they had to pack light. To survive, the nomad farmers had to hunt, shoot, and roast meat on open fires in the open air, and so the culture of braaing (derived from the Dutch word for roast, “braden”) was born. The Bantu peoples who lived in these parts of South Africa at the time had also developed an appreciation for grilled meat. Where cattle were mainly used for the production of milk, they preferred to roast mutton, goat, or game. Another important protein supply were grilled insects such as caterpillars, locusts, and termites. Today, standing around a fire and preparing grilled meat (no insects) is a unifying tradition of South African enjoyed by people across different ethnic backgrounds. Even when you invite friends over for beers, a braai is likely to break out. A basic braai menu might look like this:
SAMPLE SOUTH AFRICAN BRAAI MENU
Boerewors (traditional beef sausage)
Beef Short Ribs (glazed in Coke BBQ sauce)
Mielie (grilled corn on the cob)
Malva Pudding (warm cream soaked pastry)