Cape Town- Americans might be the custodians of the ‘barbecue’, but South Africans are the ultimate braai masters!
Traditionally in the US, as in South Africa, summer is just one big bundle of celebration… and what’s a traditional celebration without a group of people gathering around marinated chicken and other meats in a backyard?
Although America’s grill skills are on point, a recent CNN round-up shows that it cannot hold an ember to the braai culture of Argentina and South Africa.
It is still unclear as to where the official term, ‘barbeque’ originates from… but many say that it is derived from ‘barbacoa’, which is a term widely used by Spanish explorers to describe the Caribbean’s native Taino people’s cooking techniques.
Today, ‘barbeque’ or ‘braai’ as we know it incorporates multiple cooking methods. This includes grills, above fire pits, underground and in clay ovens.
Here’s a list of regional distinctions and customs everywhere from South America to Africa, to Asia…
This is proof that the mouth-watering braai experience is a universal tradition, not just an American thing.
Braai (South Africa)
In South Africa, braai (‘barbecue’ in Afrikaans) is the nation’s number one culinary custom.
Similar to the US, this often includes friends and family gathering for a spit braai. Grilled, juicy cuts of steaks, which South Africans refer to as ‘chops’, chicken soaties (skewers) and sausage is the core of the gathering.
These gatherings played a huge part in the transforming the country in terms of cutting through racial and socioeconomic lines.
In the townships of South Africa, ‘shisa nyama’ gatherings, which is ‘burn meat’ in Zulu, amplifies the complete braai experience. These gatherings usually have an on-site butcher, a live DJ and drinks, of course.
Chicago native and model, Unique Love spent three years living in Cape Town and fondly recalls her first shisa nyama.
"Having a braai in Cape Town's Mzoli's Meat felt like home," she says. "After eating, I never wanted to [leave] because the community's ambience felt comforting."
Here's a fun fact: Did you know South Africa is the world’s top consumer of beef? …and the figure continues to fluctuate every year!
Bamboo… we should’ve known.
Instead of being an overall gathering, Yakitori refers to a specific cooked meal over blazing charcoal, native to the Japanese.
The Yakitori range comprises of chicken parts (strips of chicken skin make up "towikawa" and "negima", which consists of thigh meat with leeks).
Overtime, the range has expanded to grilled, skewered food that includes vegetables, seafood, pork and beef.
The Filipinos refines this list for their skewered pig spit-roasted over hot charcoal… sometimes it is prepared in an oven, but this can’t count as a ‘braai’ then, can it?
Many Filipinos declare the tasty, porky treat to be their national dish although the same claim is made by Puerto Ricans.
This tasty pork is affirmed with their national dish, while the same claim is made by Puerto Ricans. In the Filipino island of Cebu, the lechon is considered in the country, if not the world.
Here’s a fun fact: Every June 24 in Balayan, Philippines, the locals give praise to roasted pig at the Parada ng Lechon (Parade of Spit-Roast Pig).
This involves the blessing of lechons at a church, which is followed by a dynamic parade of floats, music, water guns (for the baptism) and lechons ‘dressed’ in outlandish garments and accessories.
It's true: that iconic Indian tandoori chicken you've known (and perhaps loved) for ages is considered a barbecue dish.
Why wouldn’t it be? It’s prepared on blazing charcoal in a clay oven…
This is where tandoori food got its name from, a cauldron-like clay oven in which dishes such as naan bread, chicken, seafood and other meats are cooked on hot charcoal.
Indian celebrity chef, Manjit Gill says that, "The art of the tandoor originated centuries ago as a nomadic style of cooking in Central Asia where food was cooked on charcoal pits and meat was spit-roasted,"
"The Tandoori cuisine as we know it today was introduced in the late 1940s in post-partition India, when people discovered that it was a better medium to cook meat in a tandoor rather than on the spit."
Fiji's barbecue tradition has more of an underground approach compared to other nations.
Fiji is very secretive when it comes to their approach to barbeque tradition. Their native dish is called ‘lovo’.
Different to other barbeque methods, lovo is cooked in a lovo oven, which is an Earth-oven consisting of extraordinary hot stones placed inside a hole in the ground to allow for slow smoked cooking.
The core ingredients are pork, chicken, vegetables, taro root and seafood are wrapped in taro or banana leaves and placed onto the stones.
Umu, which is Samoa’s version of the barbeque, is much like the underground cooking of Fijian lovo… not so secretive after all.
Avichai Ben Tzur is a travel writer who spent a reasonable amount of time in the South Pacific. He described the barbeque preparation as a ‘family task’, which is similar to how South Africans do it.
He says, "Young men of the extended Samoan family gather together to prepare the 'umu,' hours before the traditional Sunday feast commences... catching fresh fish or slaughtering a pig, collecting taro leaves and breadfruit from the family's agricultural plot and cracking open coconuts for the palusami."
The palusami, a Samoan staple made of coconut cream (often seasoned with onions, lemon juice and simple spices) wrapped in taro leaves, is "a delicious calorie bomb that cannot be resisted by Samoans."
Gogigui, which is Korean for ‘meat roast’, is a popular barbeque meal in Korea. The meal is enjoyed by both the locals and the foreigners.
Enjoying a Korean barbeque usually involves sliced beef, pork and chicken with an assortment of banchan (side dishes) and rice cooked in the center of a table, which is either cooked by the chefs or the diners themselves.
Though Peruvian cuisine is known the world over for ceviche and Pisco sour cocktails, one of Peru's most traditional Incan cooking customs, pachamanca, is still under the radar to many.
We are all familiar with the Peruvian cuisine, ceviche and Pisco cour cocktails… but what’s under the radar, is of course Peru’s pachamanca (meaning ‘earth pot’ in the Quechua language), which is their native approach to barbeque tradition.
It involves digging to create a ground oven and lining the cavity with fire-heated stones to cook the food.
Potatoes, corn, legumes and marinated meats are enclosed in banana leaves and placed into the Earth-oven for hours.
A real experience include sitting on the ground and being served with pachamanca. This usually only happens on special occasions.
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