Africa-Press – Gambia. Written by Bulelwa Payi Mmabatho Molefe, the owner of Emazulwini Restaurant, is using Nguni foods to showcase African heritage. Picture: Supplied
Published 8h ago Written by Bulelwa Payi Share From ulwimi (ox tongue) and cream infused with impepho or rooibos, Cape foodies are infusing local herbs into their dishes or introducing a modern spin on traditional dishes to celebrate African culture.
Cape chefs are turning traditional food in to gourmet dishes and using local herbs to inspire flavour in a bid to change perceptions about local delicacies and offal.
Food lovers and cooks are proudly showcasing menus with herbs and food endemic to the continent to bring to life flavours that are purely African and celebrate Africa’s diverse heritage.
At the V&A Waterfront’s Makers Landing, a new restaurant, Emazulwini, has set its sights on changing perceptions about African food. The restaurant’s owner and chef, Mmabatho Molefe, uses African ingredients which have been “forgotten about” but are now being sourced from several markets.
The young Zulu woman has found a niche in fine dining showcasing the Nguni culture. “African food and ingredients have been downplayed in how meals are prepared. I have elevated simple foods like offal (intestines) to a status of fine dining. While some of the dishes are not particularly all about indigenous ingredients, it’s how I prepare them,” she said.
Growing up, Molefe was always cooking and pursued a career in the industry. “My parents felt like cooking was not a great career choice, so after matric I studied politics, sociology and law. But I dropped out and went to culinary school to pursue cooking.”
After she was retrenched during the Covid-19 pandemic, Molefe decided to open her restaurant in 2020. Emazulwini’s signature dish is ulwimi (ox tongue) and ushatini (sauce).
“It was about African food being celebrated in the fine-dining scene and showcasing it.
“We’ve been blessed to serve people from all around the world, different races, from young to old, locals and tourists who have come to experience the offerings. People have been open to seeing our interpretation of our culture,“ she added.
In Observatory, a small ice cream parlour called Tapi Tapi has revolutionised the milky dessert. Owned and run by Zimbabwean-born scientist Tapiwa Guhza, Tapi Tapi makes and serves ice cream, food and beverages inspired by indigenous African ingredients.
“The inspiration behind my work is that a lot of what we consume in Africa is not from the continent, and I try to showcase the diversity that the continent offers through food.
“Through Tapi Tapi, I am trying to address the fact that our food systems from agricultural production to our homes and restaurants do not reflect the continent. We talk about localised eating, but none of the things are from here. So I am trying to change that,” he said.
Ice cream flavours include ingredients such as sorghum, kapenta (a sardine), nyi (a fruit from Zimbabwe), rooibos, black-eyed beans, cacao leaves, baobab fruit, fire-roasted pumpkin and peanut flour.
“It’s powerful when you see the reaction from people when they realise that they are represented on the menu,” said Guhza. Guhza said most of the foods available on the continent were seen as weeds, non-edibles or poverty foods, and go to waste.
“There’s value in diversity and difference. We can embrace everything within the continent and everyone’s identities without marginalising other people and what we have.”
He said the idea behind the menu was to recognise local ingredients that were “dying off” because of a lack of demand, in part, due to the nature of convenience foods and peoplelosing interest in cooking.
“I look at the continent as a source of inspiration. We have a lot of herbs, spices and cooking techniques and flavour profiles that people do not know about. I try to introduce people to new flavours and to a lot of palates.” Guhza sources ingredients from markets, shops, farms and forages.
“I live in a neighbourhood where some of the fruit is foliage. There’s a little fruit called amathungulu, from KwaZulu-Natal, which is used as a ‘hedge’ or boundary plant to protect many homes and keep animals away because the plant has thorns. There’s kei apple, which I use in my menus to make amasi, and of course sour figs, spekboom, fynbos, impepho and rooibos,” he said.
The kapenta (fish), which also finds its way into Guhza’s ice cream, is mostly available and eaten in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
“I grew up in a family that was willing to embrace other cultures. My grandmother encouraged me to cook all the time. My mother exposed me to West African food.
“Flavours evoke feelings. I want people of Africa to see the beauty and the value of the foods they grew up with that they might have forgotten about.” Related Topics: Share