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SSouth Africa is a country that’s diverse in its culture and language, and if there’s one thing that brings South Africans together it’s food. Not just any food, but braai (barbecued) meat that’s been prepared at a shisa nyama.

Shisa nyama, which literally means burnt meat in Zulu, is the term used in townships to describe where people make and serve the braais. People from all walks of life flock to shisa nyamas, whether they’re the CEO of a successful company or a general worker, and if there’s one place that doesn’t grade you on who you are in the outside world, it’s a shisa nyama. They’re fantastic tourist attractions as you can experience the liveliness and authenticity in the heart of a township, and if you aren’t welcomed by plumes of smoke from the braai, you’re surely at the wrong place.

TThe three things you’ll likely find at a shisa nyama are alcohol, loud music and loads of braaied meat, usually fatty cuts to prevent it from drying out. While the menus differ from one establishment to the next, in order to give each one a competitive edge, you’ll likely find boerewors, which is the local sausage made up of spiced coarsely ground beef and pork; mieliepap, which is maize meal porridge, and chakalaka, a spicy tomato, carrot and bean relish.

Some establishments will jazz up the menu by adding grilled sweetcorn, a tasty potato salad and some greens to accompany the mountain heap of protein on a plate. Others might offer platters that feature seafood such as prawns and white fish fillets.

Some of my top shisa nyama spots include:

Mzoli’s in Gugulethu, Cape Town, is my favourite. Situated in one of the most famous townships, this popular hangout is visited by well-known faces such as DJ Fresh and TV chef Jamie Oliver. On arrival, you’ll head to the butcher to choose your pieces of meat, after which they get marinated in a “secret sauce” before being grilled. There’s deep house music to lure the crowd straight to the dancefloor, and the atmosphere is brilliant.

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