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OOver the years, migration to mines meant that the Basotho food travelled all over South Africa. The food also travels well because of the emphasis on fermentation and preservation – and it’s incredibly delicious.
The Basotho people historically lived in a broad area that encompasses much of South Africa's Free State province and also the independent kingdom of Lesotho. Urbanisation and migrant labour have ensured that you will now often hear the Sotho language spoken in Gauteng. In its traditional heartland, Basotho cooking reflects the agricultural and culinary demands of cold winters and mountainous terrain.
Like many cultures the world over, fermented foods came about as a necessity. The Basotho grind sorghum, millet and maize together to make a polenta-like porridge called ting. The process turns the wheat into a dish that tastes a bit like yoghurt.
VVegetables are also preserved. Mangangajane are sundried vegetables with a long-lasting, intense flavour. The spice sekokomogane, made by grinding marula seeds, is another unique addition to meals.
TThe most famous meat dish is slow-cooked oxtail stew. This is served with dumplings, a mix of vegetables and beetroot salad. The steamed dumplings are made with fermented maize meal and known as leqebekoane. In winter, mountain herders and shepherds catch wild game and hares to sustain themselves during their long sojourns.
If you are near the Lesotho kingdom in Bloemfontein, try sechu sa khoho (chicken stew). Because of the migrant labour movement, there are many Sotho speakers in the Gauteng area. If you’re in Pretoria, head to Kwazi where you can get one of the best tings. At Janicky's Place in Atteridgeville, try the incredible maotwana (chicken foot stew) and mqombothi (beer).
With all these preserved, fermented and slow-cooked flavours, it will come as no surprise that Basotho food goes very well with a jug of ice cold beer.