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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.
MMy second favourite is Chaf Pozi at the base of the famous Orlando Towers in Soweto. Here, you can experience the full Soweto ambience. There’s lively music and a big-screen TV to watch sport, and the Premium Bar where you can get a crisp cold beer. Chaf Pozi takes it to another level with its shuttle service that transports you to Soweto’s hotspots such as the Mandela Family Museum and Vilakazi Street.
Sakhumzi Restaurant is located in Vilakazi Street, in the heart of Soweto. They offer marvellous package deals for tourists, and can accommodate up to 2 000 people. Everyone is invited to come and grab a plate - from tourists to corporate groups. They also host events, launches, team building and more.
Tate’s Kasi Grill in Clermont Durban is really where the sauce is at, and if you don’t feel like driving there, they’ll just deliver to your doorstep. Celebrities and artists frequently make appearances as they too can’t stop thinking about the food, especially the flavourful creamy pap. Head there for “Sunday Fun Day” as there are live performances by local artists and DJs.
You can also host a shisa nyama in the comfort of your own home. You don’t need anything fancy, but make sure that there’s enough meat to go around the table. If you want to take it up a notch, then go ahead and put blue cheese on some fresh brown mushrooms, or smear garlic butter on sweetcorn and season with paprika. Even better, melt butter and add cayenne pepper, salt, herbs and a splash of lemon juice and add the mixture to deveined, unshelled prawns. Put everything on the flames and enjoy the intoxicating smell of a real South African braai.