South Africans are adamant that their famous 'braai' (which rhymes with rye) trumps any other outdoor dining worldwide. The ingredients? A fire with some hot coals, lots & lots of meat & good company! It might sound familiar, but like Discover Africa's Dutch intern Gert Jan Priem found out, it is 100% unique!
Gert, who is studying Sales & Marketing Management at Utrecht University of Applied Science, compares the braai he experiences in the Netherlands to the ones we have here in South Africa.
A fire prepared by Gert and his sister at the Drakensberg. - Image by Gert Jan Priem
The South African Braai vs Netherlands gourmetten
Have you had any braais here in South Africa?
I have had many braais in South Africa so far, from braais on the beach to traditional braais with South Africans at home. The first braai I had in South Africa was a bring-and-braai. I brought some beef burgers, something we use a lot for BBQ in the Netherlands. But for a South African braai this is not done! My South African friends still call me Mr. McDonald’s.
Are there any dishes that fascinate you here other than the braai?
I’m addicted to biltong, I like to eat it every day. And my family at home really loves Ouma Rusks. When I go back to Holland I have to bring a suitcase full of it.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate South African braai compared to your homeland gourmetten?
I will rate the South African braai with 10! Gourmetten is a nice social activity to do with friends on a cloudy, rainy day. But the South African braai beats every BBQ I have ever had before. I think there is nothing better than a braai with a lot of friends, good meat & the African sun.
Didima Resort at Plettenberg Bay where Gert recently had a braai with family. - Image by Gert Jan Priem
Is there anything you’d like to share with our community about Netherlands cuisine & about yourself?
I don’t think the Dutch kitchen is very special, but when you ever visit Holland I can recommend you go to an old fishers’ village like Volendam. You should try salty herring with raw onions and smoked eel.
I’m really enjoying my stay in South Africa. I’m glad that I have the opportunity to stay in Cape Town for such a long period. This is my second time to visit South Africa. I was here two years ago with my family, we made a great road trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg. We saw a lot of beautiful South Africa. When I finish my internship, I have 2 and a half weeks left to see some more of Africa. I’m planning a trip from Johannesburg to Mozambique, can’t wait. ;)
Background on the Braai & the Gourmetstel
The equipment used to braai/ BBQ the meat is called the gourmetstel. In The Netherlands, because rainfall is common throughout the year, the gourmetten is always made indoors unlike in South Africa where the braai is always in season. A South African braai is made on a braai stand with an open fire outside the house in the back yard, patio or verandah. While on the other hand, a gourmetstel is set in the middle of a table. It is designed this way so that everybody can prepare his own food.
Gert says they cook small pieces of meat on it like chicken, beef, pork, shawarma, mini burgers, etc. They also make pancakes, eggs and veggies (mostly onions, mushrooms and paprika) sausages on the gourmetstel. They gourmetten with family and friends & most people do it during Christmas and Easter times.
Netherlands braai in action. - Image by bol.com
In South Africa the word braai can be used as a noun, a verb and an adjective. See this:
We are having a braai – Braai used as a noun.
We are braaing the meat – Braai used as a verb.
We are having braaid meat - Braai used as an adjective.
Even Heritage Day, which is celebrated on September 24th every year, has been named National Braai Day. This celebrates our country’s diverse & rich culture and this can be witnessed in people’s plates.
What gets braaid?
Meat. Whether it is steak, pork, chicken or lamb, as long as it is succulent, sizzles on heat & be ready to be eaten after being braaid. And no braai is complete without boerewors. Boerewors is a beef & pork sausage with heady doses of coriander seed, lamb chops, and chicken pieces. Other additions to the braaing stand can be sosaties (pronounced ‘so-sah-teez’ - skewers of meat with fruit or vegetables), sweet corn or fish.
Because South Africans loves flavour, a whole lot of it, all braaid meat is spiced. You will find a list of braai recipes you can use for your braai here.
When and why do we braai?
At any opportunity. South Africans do not need a reason to gather up their families and friends in the name of having a braai. It can be for a celebration such a birthday, anniversary, graduation or anything or nothing at all. You don't really need a reason to have a braai just as long as everyone is in good spirits.
Gert does not only think the South African braai beats the gourmetten of Utrecht, Holland in The Netherlands, South African braai beats the US barbecue too. Lekker Braaing!