Normally, I don’t blurt out news straight away in the first sentence, bis this time I have to: My husband and I moved from Sarajevo to South Africa! And what should I say… Moving in a pandemic was not so nice, moving from winter into summer is something super nice – I could get used to it.
We’ve been here for a few weeks and as the restaurants and bars are luckily open, I had some time to explore the South African cuisine and foods. And well, coming from Bosnia – it’s not even that different in some ways. Yes, you might not believe me now, tell me I’m crazy but I tell you: The South African would absolutely love Bosnian food.
Oh yes, there’s a big passion that unites those two countries that couldn’t be much further away from each other and it’s grilled meat. Whenever there is a chance, South Africans will meet up for a braai – their version of a barbecue – normally prepared over open, wood-fired flames. You get massive beef steaks here, chicken skewers and fat sausages called boerewoers. And then there’s Chakalakka of course – the South African version of Ajvar, just spicier and made from different vegetables. I am pretty sure you would love it. And vice versa – I don’t think a South Africa could ever say no to freshly grilled Cevapcici or a good piece of lamb. In fact, they might even have to admit that it’s the best one they have ever eaten – even though they might think right now, the find it in the Karoo, a half-desert that is known as the best place for lamb in South Africa.
And then there’s Sač of course – and we all love it, don’t we? Beautifully cooked vegetables that soak up the juices of the meat… Well, here it’s pretty much the same thing: A cast-iron pot over open fire, the potjie in which South Africans cook a delicious stew, the potjiekos, made from lamb or pork, different vegetables and flavored with a good bit of beer or sherry. Now, I am not saying that a potjiekos is better than a good Sač, because it’s definitely not! You eat it with rice which comes nowhere near a good somun and to be honest I quite think that when it comes to stew-making the South Africans could learn a bit from Bosnia.
Let’s look at another type of meat now: Cured and dried meat. Yes, suho meso is great but only until you tried your first biltong and you realize – not this is what South Africans are masters in! Biltong is made from either beef or game meat, often ostrich or kudu, and what makes it so special is that it’s prepared with vinegar, keeping it chewy and moist at the same time. If you ever get the chance – try it, you won’t regret it, I promise!
Now, we’ve been talking about meat for most of this column now, so let’s look at the sweets, shall we? Oh, and just like Bosnians, South Africans love their sweets really sweet. I’m talking loads of sugar, sticky, syrupy sweet. I am pretty confident South Africans would just love Hurmašice and Baklava. After all they have malva pudding, which is a kind of cake with apricot jam and caramel that’s eaten with custard. And if this doesn’t sound sweet enough for you just yet, you should try koeksisters, the South Africa baklava: fried dough with a liquid syrup center, dipped into sugar syrup. It’s the absolute sweetness overkill. Some South Africans love it so much, they built a monument for it.
So yes, I can say that South Africa is treating us well – the food is great, the wine is out of this world and the weather is nice. But there is a part of me that misses waking up and seeing Trebević towering over the city, deep green and sometimes cloudy, sometimes friendly. And there’s a part of me that misses the smell of coffee and ćevapčići while walking through Baščaršija. But there’s something good about it too: Sarajevo is and will always be a home away from home now.