Cape Malay Merang ceremony
Did you know?
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.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)21 790 2592
Fax: +27 (0)21 790 2599
How to get here
The centre of the Cape Malay community is found in the Bo-Kaap district of Cape Town. Cape Malay Merang celebrations, will require a personal invitation from a community member for you to attend.
Tours to do
Andulela Tours offers a range of gastronomic tours of the Bo-Kaap district in Cape Town, including hands-on cooking classes.
Self-drive is best. Alternatively make use of a local guide, tour operator or hire a taxi to drive you around. Walking is also an option when exploring the Bo-Kaap.
What to pack
It's customary for Malay women to cover their heads. As a sign of respect, ladies should wear a head scarf if invited to a ceremony.
Where to stay
Cape Town has a wide range of accommodation, from budget to luxury, including boutique hotels, B&Bs, and backpacker lodges.