Merang is a Cape Malay celebration focused on food. Whether you savour the Penslawar or salivate over the sweet potato and coconut pudding, a Cape Malay Merang meal is a delicious slice of community history.

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Non-Muslims wishing to invite Muslim friends to dinner should know that seafood is always halaal and thus makes for a safe menu choice.

 

The Cape Malay Merang ceremony is an edible manifestation of South African history. Both sweet and sour memories are infused into the ritual and recipes involved. The South African people who describe themselves as Cape Malay are the descendants of 17th and 18th century exiled dissidents and slaves brought to the Cape from the Dutch East Indies. Over the years this community has developed a fusion food culture that adds to the delicious diversity of our land.

The roots of the Cape Malay Islamic religious ceremony, Mereng are to be found in the habits of slave-owning households and farms. Cape Dutch slave-owners gathered with their neighbours for Christian nagmaal (communion) services on a Sunday evening and so it was that their slaves would find time to meet, practice their own Islamic faith and discuss community issues.

Both Christian nagmaal and Islamic Merang events were accompanied by elaborate meals. While the slave owners ate the main meat cuts, the slaves made dishes using those parts of the animal that the slave owners did not like. To this day sheep trotters, tripe, sheep's tongue and other offal ingredients are commonly served at Merang feasts. Penslawar (curried tripe with coriander, nutmeg and masala-spiced onions), and sweet potato and coconut pudding are family favourites at such events.

A Merang feast starts with prayers after which an epic amount of delicious Cape Malay-style cuisine is served. After the Merang meal it is traditional to serve a sweet, condensed milk-laden tea known as Emmertee. Barakat, packages of cake or savoury food to take away, are made up and distributed to all present.

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