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CCape Malay South Africans are descendants of 17th and 18th century exiled dissidents and slaves brought to the Cape from the Dutch East Indies. Over the years, the Cape Malay community has developed a rich fusion-food culture.
Mereng was originally celebrated on the grounds of slave-owning households and farms. Cape Dutch slave-owners gathered with their neighbours for Christian Nagmaal (communion) services on a Sunday. This gave slaves 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 discarded meat cuts. 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), along with sweet potato and coconut pudding, are also family favourites.
A Merang feast begins with prayers. After the Merang meal, it is traditional to serve a sweet, condensed milk-laden tea known as emmertee. Take-away packages of cake or savoury food are then made up and distributed to all present.
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. If you ever get to sample Merang food, remember the history that brought it to your plate.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)21 461 1323
Things to do
Andulela specialises in authentic South African experiences. If you’re interested in learning more about Cape Malay culture, their Cape Malay Cooking Safari package includes a walking tour, cooking workshop and traditional meal.
What to pack
Pack a hearty appetite, and bring comfortable shoes for the walking tour. If you’re invited to a ceremony, women should wear head scarves as a sign of respect.
What to eat
Tuck into delicious Cape Malay curry, samoosas and faloodah (a rose-scented milk drink).