Trust me. I was skeptical too. When my then boyfriend, now husband tried to explain the beauty of a South African Braai, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really get it. It sounded like a basic barbecue. A gathering of friends and family eating food from the grill. “Our barbecues are great,” I argued. “My dad makes a mean burger.” But whenever we cooked out on the grill, my husband’s face said it all – he longed for his beloved braai.
Just a little bit of background for those who have never heard of a braai. The word braai comes from the word braaivleis, which is Afrikaans for roasted meat. Braai means “barbecue” and vleis means “meat.” The word is pronounced “bry” and although it originated with the Afrikaans, the word and social custom has been adopted by many ethnic cultures within Southern Africa.
When I first visited South Africa in 2010, the night I arrived I was treated to the first of what would be many braais. I can honestly say I will never see a barbecue the same again. The food, the drinks, it was so much similar, so simple, but somehow so much better than our typical American cook-out. I’ll try to explain in ways my husband couldn’t, the top five reasons a South African braai takes the gold over an American barbecue.
1. A braai is acceptable for ANY occasion
That’s right. Birthday braai, christmas braai, going away braai, welcome home braai, a Wednesday night just to get a few friends together braai, a graduation braai, housewarming braai, these are all perfectly acceptable times to have a braai.
A braai, unlike a barbecue, is not only reserved for a Summer Day, Memorial Day or Labor Day, it’s an any and every day celebration of life. While Americans bring out the sandwich platters, fingers snacks, and hot dogs, South Africans light up the braai.
2. It’s a process
A braai revolves around the fire, and the food. The food is cooked on (as the name of the gathering would suggest) a braai, which is basically a grill. A major difference between the two types of cooking is that South Africans traditionally use wood or briquettes (charcoal) when they braai. This means it takes significantly longer to get a fire going and cook the food, but that’s the point. A braai is all about the experience, the company and the quality of the food. It’s something to be savored, and in this time of convenience and hurriedness, I think that’s something we can all appreciate.
3. The food and “dop”
Ah, the food. You will not find plain jane hot dogs here. No way. South Africans love flavor, and food served at a braai doesn’t disappoint. We are talking boerewors, a spicy sausage, full of a beef and pork mix, and sometimes lamb, spiced with cloves, coriander seed, pepper, nutmeg and allspice. It never contains mechanically separated of processed meat and no more than 10% fat. Sayonara hotdogs. Also served can be any combination of steaks, rack of lamb, chicken, pork rashers, sosaties (kebabs), all types of seafood, and in my case, I’ve been known to throw on veggie burger or two. So. many. options!
Side dishes are similar to the all american barbecue, and guests will often bring a dish. Examples are green salad, garlic bread, or my new current obsession, braai rolls, potato salad or potato bake. I’ve also hear of pap being served, but I’ve never had it. As for desserts, you can find cheesecake, and traditional South African desserts like milk tart, malva pudding, koeksisters, peppermint crisp, etc. Mouth watering yet?
And a braai wouldn’t be a braai without the dop. Dop is the Afrikaans word for “drink” and trust me this is something you will never have a shortage of at a braai. Whether it’s beer, wine, cider, or a cocktail, if it’s cold, it’s consumed.
4. It brings people together
A braai is the perfect excuse to get friends and family, young and old together. You could even say it brings the country together. Heritage Day, September 24, is a public holiday that has been coined “Braai Day.” No matter the language spoken or skin color, love of meat cooked over a wood fire is something that all South Africans share. And it’s something that they are all proud to have in their heritage.
I can safely say it’s no coincidence that since I’ve been living in South Africa, I’ve found that all of the friendships I’ve made have been at braais. Something about the relaxed atmosphere (and maybe the drinks) just makes me feel chatty. Speaking of the atmosphere…
5. The atmosphere
In our Florida apartment, my husband almost got arrested for trying to braai on a weber grill on our second floor balcony. Apparently there is a fire code in Florida that states you can’t grill less then 30 feet from your house. Lame, right?
Most homes in South Africa have a braai installed in their backyard or on their veranda, often times they will be in a lapa, a traditional style South African hut that keeps anything beneath it remarkably cool (I have no doubt a grill in a lapa would be illegal in the states). At our flat now, we have a built-in braai right on our patio! Also, wherever you go, there is usually a braai setup. At the guest house we stayed at in Kruger, they had a whole enclosed entertainment area for the braai, as well as an outdoor pool and sitting area.
Americans may know how to do some things, but I can tell you without a doubt that the South Africans have nailed the braai, and it is something I am lucky to be able to experience on a weekly basis. When you are sitting outside, enjoying the beautiful South African climate, a cold dop in hand, warm glow of the fire nearby and good company surrounding you, it’s impossible not to get the feeling that this is how life is meant to be lived.
Friday, March 10th 2017 at 12:02 pm
I never ever read such type of info before this was really incredible.
Saturday, June 11th 2016 at 5:55 pm
Hit the nail right on the spot. I travel back and forth between SA/Botswana and north america. SA braais are by far superior hands down, from the quality of meat, spices and all. However with the adoption of feedlots in SA, the taste has taken a down turn but meat from the Kalahari remains the best of all.
Boerewores, the only way to make them on this side of the world is at home and does not take much to create them yourself.
Thursday, January 7th 2016 at 1:32 am
Very well said. As a South African living in Australia where we BBQ on a gas BBQ I have to admit, though loving life in Australia, I miss the wood fire and coals of a braai.
Friday, May 8th 2015 at 7:35 am
Hey all…take a look at this video – it sums up what a braai is about. This was made for our Heritage Day – otherwise known as “Braai Day”
Wednesday, April 29th 2015 at 1:28 pm
Sorry to hear, it seems like you must have been the only person and your friends who BBQ’ed when you were in SA, the rest of us always braai and there is definitely rack of lamb, sosaties, peri peri chicken, you name it we will braai it an make it taste better.
Sunday, June 8th 2014 at 1:54 am
We had the fortune to spend 14 months in southern Africa and you said it! We fell in love with the braai “experience” and now in South Korea we’re seeking out a SA restaurant known locally as a braai haven… (definitely no braai facilities in the teeny studio flat we’re renting).
One of the things we tried to master was cooking over wood – the American debate over gas vs. charcoal now seems laughable to me. We still burn a lot but we’ll get there…
I agree with another commenter: in more than a year I never heard the word “dop” but I think “sundowner” must be the BEST word ever invented!
Sunday, June 1st 2014 at 4:04 pm
As an American living in SA I could not agree with you more! Awesome blog post! You really do need to try pap and tamatie braai at your next braai.
Sunday, June 1st 2014 at 9:09 am
I’ve been all over the world and I’m proud to say South African braai is the best. The article says it all. Thanx nicole
Sunday, June 1st 2014 at 9:07 am
I’ve been all over the world and I’m proud to say South African braai is the best. The article says it all.
Tuesday, May 20th 2014 at 4:31 pm
“When you are sitting outside, enjoying the beautiful South African climate, a cold dop in hand, warm glow of the fire nearby and good company surrounding you, it’s impossible not to get the feeling that this is how life is meant to be lived.”.
All of the sudden I miss my home country like never before! I’m a little envious of you right now.
Tuesday, May 20th 2014 at 1:23 pm
Okay, I hate it when non Afrikaans people say Braai. They pronounce it terribly – Braaaa. Yiss oaks, we gonna hev a lekka braaaa. Terrible. Rather call it BBQ if you’re going to speak English.
No South African “braai” beats a smoked Texan Brisket(and I braai nearly every week, mainly for the fire) Shame, poor South Africans, always see their tiny crappy customs as culture, they think it will make their lack of real culture less obvious.
I am South African too. Can’t help laughing and shaking my head and how ignorant we are. Damn.
Wednesday, January 6th 2016 at 5:48 pm
You are just being a Doos.
Wednesday, January 6th 2016 at 11:33 am
Ja well no fine………..ons gaan nou braai ou-boet !
Sunday, June 1st 2014 at 11:53 pm
You kinda miss the point my China. Braai is not about the food or the drink. For that, we have potjie. What the bokkie is trying to say is that braai is about the social and moreover, the effort andcare put into the occasion kinda like a Nederburgh Pinotage. Bokkie, you have done yourself justice and I can only imagine you sitting around the fire, the smell of hardekool in the air and the tik-tak of the flames on the stumps, reading these comments to Valie and his Chinas, having a laugh while the sun is setting in a callaidescope of colour. Up North we have a phylosophy about a braai. We burn the wood in the summer, cause it makes the winter warmer. It is the memory of braaing in the summer that makes the hard lonely days bareable. Now try the pap and sheba, it is what gives us strength.
Sunday, June 1st 2014 at 10:19 am
Thursday, May 22nd 2014 at 9:37 am
You have to be kidding? Texan Brisket? It’s nice but there’s just no comparison. Also, the author is American, I thought that was obvious?
Lived in the US and had some great BBQs, in Texas too, but seriously nothing like in Southern Africa.
Monday, May 19th 2014 at 9:41 pm
Having lived in the US for the past 17 years, have to agree this article also nearly brought tears!
There is no question that the traditional Braai beats the US Grill hands down!! Grilling Hamburger Patties and/or Frankfurters which are called “hot dogs” is so boring – not a piece of steak or boerewors in sight!
We’re lucky, here in the Atlanta area we have two good sources of Wors, (as well as lekker Biltong and Droe Wors), so we do get close to a braai here.
Will be in SA next month, cannot wait to experience the real thing with family & friends.
Monday, June 2nd 2014 at 12:45 pm
Hi Ivor, please let me know where you buy wors and biltong in Atlanta, I sometimes travel there and would love to buy. I live in Texas and only have 1 place in Dallas and 1 in Houston.
Monday, May 19th 2014 at 11:54 am
Watch this! Barry Hilton sums it up perfectly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYdQuj9UUIQ
Monday, May 19th 2014 at 12:37 am
As a South African living overseas … this almost made me cry. I obviously knew everything you wrote about, but reading it made me ‘realize’ it. Built in braais in 50 square meter flats … how brilliant! I love South Africa and I love South Africans AND we braai!!
Tuesday, May 20th 2014 at 2:31 pm
Glad you enjoyed the post! Comments like this make my day! 🙂
Sunday, June 1st 2014 at 4:09 pm
Great article, happy to see foreigners enjoying the humble braai.
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 6:45 pm
i do like the overall slower pace of a braai but I have been here almost four years and have yet to find a boerewors that I like. Also, a lot of Americans smoke the meat for a BBQ which with most meat always beats braai.
Monday, June 2nd 2014 at 12:52 pm
I think you have to think of smoked meat as totally different to braai meat. It tastes really good, (had some great barbecue in Lockhart, Texas), but isn’t really the same as braai where the flame from the wood or charcoal singes the meat and gives it a specific taste.
Monday, May 19th 2014 at 8:35 am
Mate, nothing stops you from adding smoked meat to a braai. In fact pork ribs are Always smoked for spare ribs (else they end up those horrible fatty pork ribs)
and for boerewors? Make you own, it is easy
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 2:40 pm
@joe there are a couple of stores you have not anul(ized) you obviously have no life get one and learn to brain.
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 2:22 pm
Yep, AMEN to all of that. It’s so much the same, yet it’s not the same at all. Having the built-in braai on your patio is where it all starts. And then the long rolls of boerewors, and the non-rushed-ness of a braai – people hang out and talk forever! I also arrived in South Africa in 2010, but sadly have since had to move away again as my husband’s assignment ended end of 2012.
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 1:01 pm
Hi All, so great to read all these comments. BBQ is a chip flavour (crisps) . A must for any braai is a steak, a chop, and a wors. Any meat is perfect for a braai, you must try crocodile. Good advice for chicken , microwave for 20 min and then just toast on the fire. Nicole ask your hubby to explain a “skilpad braai” meer dop as vleis. Phutu pap (pootoo ) is dryer than usual and is also called krummel pap, stir the pap with a carving fork to break it up. Wash your hands and eat traditional with the fingers. I live in South Africa and all these comments made even me homesick for SA. I will never admit to the tear in the eye. You must all try “rykman’s pap or paptert ” lots of sweetcorn, bacon, cheese, tomatoes ham etc cooked into it. Of course! Nobody mentioned the traditional braai outfit! This is a must! Your favorite rugby team jersey!
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 12:25 pm
This has made be really homesick for a braai now. I am in the uk and am going to try to have a braai tonight!
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 1:41 pm
+1 on that I’m in Ireland
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 11:44 am
Beautifully written Nicole. And then we move on to the topic of the right type of tongs to use – ‘braaitang’ – which, as every braaier (‘he who is engaged in the act of braaiing’) knows, is an important tool in the braaier’s arsenal. I have my favourite which I will take to any braai, and keep a beady eye on to ensure it does not follow someone else home.
Then move on to a ‘spitbraai’ – a whole lamb on a rotating spit. Eish! My mouth begins to water. It must be the best experience. Salty, crackly outer skin, moist medium-roasted meat underneath, carved directly from the spit to the plate. Oh boy! At one stage I fine-tuned the art to putting just a leg of lamb on a rotisserie over the coals as I could not wait to get enough people together for a whole lamb.
Tuesday, May 20th 2014 at 2:44 pm
That’s so funny Theo! I haven’t seen anyone with their own special tongs, but I can see that they are a special tool indeed. And you are making MY mouth water with your spitbraai lamb description! Sounds like such a treat!
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 11:05 am
Great read! Braai’s are one of my favourite pasttimes…my boyfriend and I will even do one for just the two of us. Our group of friends get together often to watch rugby and braai. The best way for us to stay as a group and catch up.
Your next step is to go buy the beer bird chicken. It’s a grill that holds a can of beer. Stick a full chicken on top of it. Spices and all…most yummy chicken done on the braai. It just falls off the bone. Can even use Coke or Fanta for flavouring.
Tuesday, May 20th 2014 at 2:48 pm
Yes! My friends also get together to braai while watching rugby! It’s a lot of fun.
Thanks for the beer bird chicken recipe! I’m putting that on my list of things to try!
Thanks for reading!
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 11:01 am
Awesome article, love it.
Brings tears to my eyes, been living in a hotel for the past 7 months in Detroit MI, and long for a good braai……I sometimes get to go to colleagues houses to “grill” but it’s on gas and doesn’t come close…..
Can’t wait to get my own place and have my family with me and then invite my colleagues to participate in a braai….. 🙂
But you have captured the essence so well, great piece of writing. 🙂
Tuesday, May 20th 2014 at 2:41 pm
Thank you Mark! Thanks for reading and I hope you get to have your braai soon!
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 10:35 am
Nou gaan ons Braai, met Ys ja 😉
Brilliantly put and as they would say in Afrikaans “so bek kort jam”! Nothing beats a lekker old dop and a tjop at the end of the day especially after a long week of work, no matter the season it is always time to Braai and when it comes to Potjie (you simply HAVE to have a Potjie)… One does not simply visit Africa and NOT have Potjie but I digress, we live in Perth Western Australia and no mater what my Son’s Aussie Girlfriend has planned if she hears we’re having Potjie, that’s it she’s sold and Potjie it is, it is her favourite Souf Efrikan dish 😀
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 6:46 am
Hi Nicole and all dicussing the “braai”
I am from Namibia where we can really braai… often in nature but also ay home. I have two braai setups ay my home.
make sure you dont make just “pap” as in a breakfast version.
at a braai use less water… mix the mielie meel into boiling water off heat und add untill it becomes too thick to stir.
the cover and on low heat let it sit for at least half an hiur.
eat with butter an sugar or tomato and onion relish.
you could also addl sweetcorn .
Mix pap with lots of butter and can of condensed milk and the let it sit for half hour plus on stove.
we also do braai broodjies to make sure they are not too dry, use wax paper both sides… ot wont flame, turns golden brow…. comes out lekker.
once you had braai pap…. you will alway want it.
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 12:44 pm
Nicole, welcome to the Afrikaner culture, which I am sure was founded around a braai vuur 🙂 and to the general braai culture. As was mentioned braai is a southern African cultural thing, and has to do more with the social aspects of a fire, good company and food than anything else. I have to agree with Gerhard in that Namibians also enjoy they braais. The Oshiwambo people refer to it as Kapana, and is available at street corners in informal settlements, etc.
I am probably opening a can of worms here, but I believe that we have the best braaiwood in southern Africa – kameeldoringhout. (hehehe)
@Joe, you have not experienced a good braai yet because you had to guard your food too much, and probably missed the social get together. A “stand on its side lamb rib that was braaied for 3 hours or so” is the best, and we share it amongst everyone at the braai.
Thank you for a well written article on what a braai is; I am so exited, I am going to light the fire now.
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 5:53 am
We live in the UK now and I always chuckle at what the neighbours must say when we light up in winter! There’s something to be said about braaing in the snow and the umbrella over the coles when the rain gets to heavy! That was some great reading!
Tuesday, October 13th 2015 at 3:41 am
Actually, I think barbeque/smoking and braai are two very different things, and both worthy of complete and utter adoration as they both have their own very, very special features. I am a Zimbabwean and we braai’d too! In order to braai you need wood. No charcoal, nope, nada, never. Hot and quick cooking. Also, I dont’t think one can compare the steak found here in USA to the steak found in Africa. Nope, nada, never. Even the fabulous grass raised meat found in Vermont, I think it is the grass … and let’s not get started on comparing one sad excuse for a sausage to the epitome of a sausage! BBQ is an entirely different animal to braai-ing. First off, you can use tough cuts like brisket, chuck etc. The meat is marinated and then it is cooked low and slow, whether in a smoker or over a cool fire. The longer the better. When served it is often slathered in BBQ sauce. I love both types of cooking … but they are not the same. Nope, Nada, Never.
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 3:09 am
A good braai is South African. A well written piece, from a non South African viewpoint and it certainly encaptulates what is resonating in so many South Africans hearts sitting all over the world. A braai is a pleasant experience(journey) and not just an act. Thanks for helping us connect to our own feelings of sameness!
Saturday, May 17th 2014 at 11:40 pm
Thank you for describing a good ol braai. That is everything I miss about South Africa. One day I will return to visit my family and a family braai is no. 1 on my list of things to do. Australians don’t do BBQ like a braai either. I miss the smell of boerie rolls on a Saturday morning wafting in the streets. Here in Australia, they do a thin beef sausage on a plain slice of bread! Nothing compares to the good ol South African braai. It is so uniquely South African.
Saturday, May 17th 2014 at 10:21 pm
Nicole. I’ve now been in the UK for 8 years and there are a few things I do miss.
First and foremost the impromptu braai where every one just rocks up and parks off.
Second the weather.
Third availability of charcoal all year round.
Fourth and very important the Portuguese roll. For the life of me I cannot find it anywhere in Europe.
Also very importantly you forgot to mention the biltong nice to much on while dopping and waiting for the fire to be just right!
And of course who can forget the laughing, singing, talking wine Graca.
Thank you for bringing a piece of SA back to the UK.
Saturday, May 17th 2014 at 8:18 pm
Loved your story. Sommer got goosebumps from being a Proud South African. Just something as a footnote for the ladies. A Braai and potjiekos is mostly done by men…. Thus the ladies can sit and chat and relax. And considering how often we braai, the ladies can have some time out of the kitchen…. Apart from making a salad of course:) As for the Heritage part…. All SA citizens know what a braai is, and all enjoy…. Even with strangers from different backgrounds:) They should name it officially braai day!
Saturday, January 31st 2015 at 1:41 pm
Haha Johan! You and I both know that even though the braai and the potjie are done by men, and therefore the ladies’ have “the day off”, so-to-speak, it is still a busier day for women than for the men doing all the “work” of braaiing. But we graciously allow you your time at the fire because we are sure in your imagination you also actually hunted and killed the animal and carried it home over your shoulder!
Great blog Nicole!
Saturday, May 17th 2014 at 7:11 pm
Nee bokkie, jy gaan sommer vêr kom tussen die Suid Afrikaners! Great attitude!
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 10:55 pm
This article brought memories flooding back. Thanks. Only one mention of Snoek (a South African Fish) Braai. It has to be one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.
Monday, May 19th 2014 at 9:21 am
For a brilliant explanation of a braai see the link.
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 3:07 pm
Pap is for those who live North of the Paarl. In the Province we enjoy our braaibroodjies. Tonight I’m lighting the fire in Holland with some chicken. Shame, the poor lam pieces. These dutch should really learn to wait a few days for the lamb to get some meat.
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 11:01 am
Well done on a well written and beautifully explained article.
I must say after reading this I obviously wanted braaivleis and all its companions. Whilst reading the article and the replies it dawned on me, Nicole, you have managed to single handedly bring together a bunch of strangers to your virtual braai! Not only is the physical braai experience something that brings people together but so are the conversations about having a braai and its experiences something unique and beautiful.
well done again!
lets braai and cheers everyone!
Monday, May 19th 2014 at 11:32 am
And talking about having a braai…that can fill an evening!
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 10:04 pm
Thank you RJ, and you are right, this is like a virtual braai!
I must say, I am surprised by the response this post received, but I am so grateful to have generated a positive discussion about braais and South African culture! My husband and I have enjoyed reading and responding to all of the comments (he’s helpful for translating Afrikaans!) and hearing different South African viewpoints, some of which even he had not considered! So awesome to share experiences and information with my new online friends!
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 10:08 am
I’m living in Texas and am having an amusing time trying to color up a braai for my texan buddies. They do love their burgers and hotdogs! lol! Pulled out a lamb braai recently and it was treated like an exotic event!
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 11:03 pm
Lamb barbecue “exotic”????
Places like this all over Texas:
Saturday, May 17th 2014 at 9:19 am
That’s awesome! I’m sure they appreciate you introducing them to a braai. 🙂 Hopefully you’ve been introduced to some Texas-style ribs?
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 12:12 pm
I have to be quite honest….Those beef ribs were a first for me and They are bloody delicious! Huge buggers too lol!
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 4:46 am
> South African’s love food
South African’s what?
It’s South Africans. No apostrophe on a plural. We learn this in fourth grade.
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 9:37 pm
Hi Zav, thanks for reading and for the grammar correction! You were right, of course you don’t put an apostrophe on a plural noun, unless it is possessive! Typo fixed!
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 2:10 am
Pap? You’ve never had pap? At a Braai? I feel sorry for you my dear. Braaivleis without pap is like red wine without cheese, strawberries without cream, malva poeding witout custard.
Pap and relish made with onions and tomato and garlic…
Putu pap made in a potjie over a slow open fire…
In Floriduh, in a pinch, you may want to try grits. Similar, but not the same. And even in Thailand, I found guys importing pap from South Africa. I am never without pap. It’s a staple food.
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 9:48 pm
Hey Chris! Oh man, after hearing all of these comments I am feeling a bit sorry for myself for never having pap at a braai! I’ve had it at a restaurant before and would agree with you that pap is similar to grits, but not the same. Grits are only good with lots of butter and cheese on top – the American way I suppose! 🙂
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 10:33 pm
Well said Nicole. Welcome to South Africa. Hope you enjoy your time here, the braai’s and all the great people you will meat at them. Keep smiling.
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 10:11 pm
Thank you! Thoroughly enjoying it so far 🙂
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 8:28 pm
Proud Saffa here too. Love ‘n goeie braai en dop. Nothing beats it! 🙂
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 5:33 pm
In the words of Pieter Dirk Uys: “Braai the beloved country!”
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 5:06 pm
I swear I can smell the smoke from the charcoal right now! I’m South African married to an American and living in the US. I really miss the whole shebang of munchies while we’re waiting for the braai, REAL meat and the hypnotic smells from the braai (no hotdogs and burgers for me thank you – kiddie fodder) and of course, dessert! My husband is addicted to koeksisters! I miss the comraderie with friends and family and the long wait for the food while we chatter away, have a dip in the pool, drink some wine and prepare more food.
Bet you can make bunny chow out of leftover braai food!
Sigh, lekker homesick now…
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 9:54 am
Thanks for reading Lisa! Yes, it is such a lovely process! I love how no one complains about how long the food takes because everyone is relaxed and enjoying! Oh man, Koeksisters are divine – one of my favorite SA desserts!
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 4:27 pm
Great article, thank you! Two comments:
1. Is that, dare I ask, a GAS braai?! Sies man!
2. Rhodesians / Zimbabweans consume vast amounts of Pap. They call it Sadza. The SA / Zim border is sometimes referred to as The Sadza Curtain. 🙂
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 9:49 am
Colin – yep, that last picture is of a GAS braai! Haha now I’m contradicting myself a little aren’t I! This was at a friend’s house and I guess they weren’t worried about being braai purists. It was just “easier” to use the gas braai. Still a lekker braai though 🙂 And thanks for the clarification on pap in Zim!
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 4:08 pm
And that’s just the tip of the Iceberg.
Shame, you didn’t get an introduction to potjiekos, and and there’s potjies and potjies.
You also failed to mention, that we have a whole master chef style cooking competition now based exclusively on what can be made on a fire.
Here’s one episode to give you an idea:
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 2:37 pm
Proudly South African…..Just love our braai’s
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 7:54 am
Well done on a lovely article…
A braai, of course, is a far more widespread phenomenon than you mention, more Southern African than South African, with many local variants, from a Seafood braai, in the Western Cape (Cape Town), a fish braai (Mozambique), to a Wilds braai (Venison) in the Kruger Park… In the shebeens (drinking taverns) of Soweto or Khayalitsha (spelling?), it is ‘Chiesa Nyama’ (Literally Roasted meat)
I know it would take someone far more literate and eloquent than I to do a braai true justice, but it, to my mind at least, requires these three key ingredients: good mates, good food and good drink to wash it all down with LOL. Mix them all together any way you wish (Not blended, or folded, maybe just gently stirred if you wish, and a giant dollop of companionship and
You have a braai!!! (Or whatever you want to call it – who cares anyway – as long as you enjoy it and are having fun!
And then, as they say in the movies, you have location, location, location…
Monday, May 19th 2014 at 5:46 pm
Gotta love that donkey:
The worst transgressors were independents who were selling sausage that contained goat and donkey.
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 1:58 pm
Thank you! And wow, thanks for filling me in on how the rest of Africa does it – so interesting! I’d love to have a braai in Mozambique! And I agree with your three ingredients…if you have those you really can’t go wrong!
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 8:36 pm
Wondering how many calories are in Boerewors?
Manufactured by Woolworths
User modified food.
Serving Size 1 serving (100 g)
Per Serving % Daily Value*
Calories from Fat 169
Total Fat 18.8g 29%
Saturated Fat 9.8g 49%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6g
Monounsaturated Fat 8.3g
Cholesterol 41mg 14%
Sodium 660mg 28%
Carbohydrates 1.6g 1%
Dietary Fiber 3.3g 13%
Read more: Calories in Woolworths – Boerewors, Classic Beef | Nutrition and Health Facts http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-woolworths-boerewors-i321180#ixzz31uePP2OU
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 8:32 pm
Pick N Pay – Boerewors
Calories 212 Sodium 682 mg
Total Fat 17 g Potassium 0 mg
Saturated 9 g Total Carbs 1 g
Polyunsaturated 1 g Dietary Fiber 1 g
Monounsaturated 6 g Sugars 0 g
Trans 1 g Protein 15 g
Cholesterol 44 mg
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 8:16 pm
Gosh! Don’t know where to begin!
Having lived for decades in both the US and SA, I am blown away by this. As you know, if you live in SA, South Africans invented something known as the “bring and braai.” You are invited to a braai, and when you politely ask if you can bring anything, you are told “Just whatever you want to eat and drink.” So everyone stands around the braai preparing (but mostly guarding) their own food. Americans would die before asking you to bring your own food.
As far as your description of boerewors: way off. No processed meat? Less than 10% fat? LOL.
And never once – in over 30 years in SA – did I ever see anyone prepare “rack of lamb” at a braai and the idea of “all types of seafood” is ludicrous. A snoek would be pretty special.
On the other hand, unless you only barbecued in trailer parks, no one ever serves hotdogs and hamburgers at an event at home unless it is lunchtime. Of course, they serve them at baseball games and to kids, but barbecues in the US include far better meats, far greater choice, and are provided by the host, not the guest.
Really a strange “story.”
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 8:31 am
Eish, … What about lobster/crayfish, scampies, trout, kabeljouw, harders, talipa, salmon… and of course snoek, you can literally put any kind of fish on a braai.
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 8:11 am
Joe, you dear can go off and collect firewood for the next braai. I think that this was a delightful description of a Saffers braai
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 7:58 am
“And never once – in over 30 years in SA – did I ever see anyone prepare “rack of lamb” at a braai” – You clearly had very boring friends and family.
I lived in the States for just under 2 years, and while there’s nothing wrong about their BBQ I definitely missed the braai. It’s a far more social thing.
“So everyone stands around the braai preparing (but mostly guarding) their own food.” – I know your type, and you would not be invited back to one of my braais.
We always bring something to a braai and bring extra. Then once the food is cooked we kinda mix it up, trade some steak for chicken or boerie or whatever goes.
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 7:44 am
Obviously you’ve never had any proper braais before, Joe. Shame.
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 5:46 am
Really missing the point aren’t you!! So sad!
Saturday, May 17th 2014 at 8:04 pm
Although you lived in both countries, I would guess you are American born, or culturally converted.
A braai culture, when referring to a bring and braai,is that women enjoy making fiid and bringing it to the braai… there is no greater joy for a woman to make her family special and see everyone enjoying the crap out of it. It is part of the vibe. Secondly, we have this mentality to help (make side dishes), whether needed or not. People bring their own meat but there is always so much to go around from everyone, and every one eats from all meat contributed… also, not everyone eats all types of meat, or sometimes someone will bring cherry rashers for people to snack on before the food is finished, but never in my whole life have I or anyone I know guarded, or experienced someone else guarding their food.. we lovd to share. Thirdly, you can cook absolutely everything on a braai… foil wrapped potatoes, onions, mielies, bread…
Lastly, when it comes to a braai, it doesn’t matter who is on a diet… nobody is Counting calories around the the braai!
We are happy when we braai!
Saturday, May 17th 2014 at 7:10 pm
If you get your boerewors from the likes of Pick ‘n Pay or Woolworths of course it is going to contain all that other stuff. Go to a good old fashioned butcher – that is where you get the best. AS for not having seen rack of lamb man where have you been? Anything and everything goes at a braai. Bring and Braai again you have obviously been to the wrong types of bring and braai. The one’s I am used to and have been going to for the last 40 years do not have people guarding their own food. A braai is a social occasion and what better place than around the vuur with a dop in hand. After the braaiing ( is that a word) of the meat is done, usually by the men, the salads and sides prepared, usually by the women, EVERYONE shares what is there. There is definitely no this is my food attitude. The whole point of the bring and braai is sharing. I see nothing wrong with this given the current economic climate. Why braai alone at home when a large group of friends can get together still spend the same amount of money as you would have to stay home but have some exceptional company while you do it.
Monday, May 19th 2014 at 12:44 pm
Att Joe. After 30yrs in SA no rack of lamb. Lol. You probably never went to a proper boere braai. Buying your meat at Pick & Pay or Woolworths is what you do when you got to the butcher too late and they closed already, really for emergencies. When anyone gets to a braai and they take out their meat and it has that Pick & Pay or Woolworths sticker on, they immediately apologise and say ja, couldn’t make it to the butcher in time. You don’t have to apologise, but you feel a bit like you let yourself down if you catch my drift. And a braai is a braai, if you want French cuisine style salad and vegetables go to a French cuisine restaurant. I go to my butcher and tell him I want fillet, this thick, they I show him with two fingers how thick he must cut it. Enjoy BBQing your hamburger patties on a gas braai. WTF, you can then just as well go buy McDonalds, same shit. You are looking for things to complain about. Jy klink vir my soos n regte doos, so eks bly jy bly nie meer hier nie.
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 9:28 pm
I seem to have opened a can of worms. Sorry about that. South Africans do the best they can but obviously the high cost of food in SA as well as the extremely limited variety of produce and cuts of meat, not to mention the less than inventiveness of South African cooking makes it difficult.
The thought of those tasteless dry mielies makes my skin crawl. Even the tub of marg (no butter at braais – too expensive)couldn’t help. Asparagus? Maybe a can of the whites slimy stuff. A South African wouldn’t recognize a fresh artichoke if it landed on them.
Piles of limp rotting vegetables in stores, and only one variety of each thing – salad made of iceberg lettuce – only variety. Potatoes – one variety. Hard tasteless tomatoes – one variety of course.
And the meat? Lamb chops cut too thin. Baby back ribs? Uh, no. Steak rarely seen at braais and when it is, rump or sirloin and also too thin. Chicken. Everything cooked to one doneness – cremated.
Fish is extremely limited in variety and mostly frozen. Shellfish rare and ultra-expensive.
Everyone gets too drunk and the smell of smoke from cigarettes is stronger than the fire’s.
Not surprised flats now have built in braais – too dangerous to go outside. I suppose the ground floor flats have them indoors?
In the States, every town has multiple well maintained parks with barbecue facilities for those that don’t have yards. And Webers are not luxury items like they are in SA.
Sorry, no comparison.
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 7:23 am
Well said!! Now I’m sommer lus for a lekker braai 🙂
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 7:09 am
Wow.. Well said!! Braai in.suid afrika is natuurlik onse ding. We are taught from a very young age too do this! And nothing better than ending off the week with a proper vleis braai! Very well said! Thanks
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 8:45 am
Thank you for reading and enjoying 🙂 Love the South African braai culture!
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 6:36 am
The first BBQ I had in the USA confused me. Hotdogs? Hamburgers? And, uh, where’s the rest of the food? I think there was chicken and ribs too, but that was *it*! My second American BBQ was even worse (these were in ‘meat country’ in Texas and California too! V confusing).
When I had my first EUROPEAN BBQ, I was *really* confused. Only 2 kinds of meat (steak of some description was one, I remember), and that was it…? In the UK I’ve had pork bangers (that was it! Honestly?!?) done on the fire!?! Even more confusing!?! Australian ones seem to veer more to the American side of the disappointing Non-African spectrum, but still but a pale shadow.
Stock standard for our weekly braais in SA we had:
Boerewors (standard as described above)
Chicken Sosaties of at least two kinds
Bacon-rasher type things
Lamb Chops etc.
(You’ll notice hot dogs and hamburgers NOT on the list. Those are for kiddies parties for heaven’s sake! I thought the planet got that memo… Evidently there must have been a postal strike that stopped it leaving Africa!)
Which went usually with
gigantic salad nicoise,
and for dessert certainly
And that was just a stock standard (not huge, maybe 12 people?) family get together! Suddenly overseas people were charring a pork banger, putting it on a standard roll and handing it to me??? Uh…. No!
Oos Wes, Tuis Bes! And when it comes to a braai, that’s for SURE!
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 1:52 pm
Pat thank you for making me laugh and smile today..
Saturday, May 17th 2014 at 8:13 pm
I am also married to an American, he loves our SA kook kos with Reis, vleis and aartappels as well…
He took me to his home a couple years back, and was very exited for me to try their BBQ… confused me, as the whole grill was covered in foil, but I was told it is the same as a braai. What came off the grill seemingly appeared to be bbq flavored chicken breasts, that tasted like nothing, really. Along with this was hot dog and burger meat, which tasted like the chicken. Hubby loved being home and looked forward to a taste of home, but even he had to admit that he eats better now.
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 6:31 am
In the words of the prophet; “Ons gaan nou braai”
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 4:06 am
I have tried to explain the nuances of a braai to many of my British friends (I’m South African now living in Britain) and many of them just don’t get it. I thought I was imagining the conviviality, the gentle process and the feeling of warmth that a braai always stirs in me. But now you have proved my own theory. I also stopped trying to explain it to people…better to just prove it. No visitor who has been to my braais has walked away anything less than astounded by the tastes, and having enjoyed the event thoroughly. :}
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 9:30 am
Thank you for reading Suz! It must be nice to be able to share such a beautiful part of SA culture with your British friends. My husband and I hope to do the same for our American friends when we return to the States!
Wednesday, May 14th 2014 at 6:43 pm
Dis nou die lewe né!
Wednesday, May 14th 2014 at 5:40 pm
Nicole, I question the heritage of your Boyjie if he (or his Mum) have not introduced you to Miele Pap! If you’re stuck in FL, you can still sort out a batch with standard white corn meal from Kroger.
If you like the braai, you should also check into a Potjiekos… Both the Braai and the Potjie are traditions I’ve adopted from my ZA in-laws and carried around the world.
Saturday, January 31st 2015 at 2:02 pm
J Wilson, I am a born and bred South African originally from the Eastern Cape province. The first time I ever had pap at a braai was when I was 16 and living in Zululand. I was invited to a braai at a school friend’s home and her mother had made krummelpap (Putupap) which is the way pap is served at a braai in KwaZulu Natal. Other parts of SA they have the stywepap, of course. So, whilst a thoroughbred South African, I, and all my relatives in the Eastern Cape, never grew up with or were introduced to pap at a braai. Therefore, it could be that Nicole’s husband grew up in a part of the country where pap was not traditionally served at a braai, or perhaps his background is more English.
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 7:50 am
It’s funny, I’ve had pap at a restaurant before but never at a braai! Maybe because my mother-in-law is Rhodesian? I’ll have to ask her! I think I will make pap for my next braai contribution. 🙂 And Potjiekos look divine, can’t believe I haven’t had that yet!
Saturday, May 17th 2014 at 7:22 pm
I am proudly Rhodesian and although we do not call it pap but rather sadza it is one and the same thing. No braai ( yes in Rhodesia we call it that too) is complete without it and sadza is ALWAYS accompanied by a great seshebo. This is a relish of tomato, onion and cabbage or sometimes spinach all cooked up to form a delicious relish. Just as an aside to make a great pap/sadza please remember that it is almost a cardinal sin to stir it with anything other than a wooden spoon. A sturdy stick is even better. I have the end bit of a wooden broom stick that I have cut off. The pap stok/sadza stick is a must for getting the pap/sadza well stirred. Also never add mielie meal after it has started cooking if you want to avoid lumps.
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 9:22 am
Great tips Dalene! I am determined, and I think pretty prepared to make pap/sadza for our next braai! I’ll have to include the experience in another blog post!
Friday, May 16th 2014 at 5:16 am
The next step in the SA culture is to have a potjiekos. Again long time languishing in the open air, with the drinks flowing, and the men getting it all ready in stages, bit by bit! Normally takes a couple of hours to have the “Kos” (food) ready. This in a big black pot (much like a witches cauldron!). So your next experience has to be a potjiekos! Oxtail is the traditional one although many people use beef, chicken and lamb as their choices…nothing tastes better than a well made potjie! Ask any Afrikaaner!
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 9:27 am
Sounds beautiful! And I do enjoy Oxtail soup! Now I just have to recruit an Afrikaaner to make me a proper Oxtail potjikos…
Wednesday, May 14th 2014 at 5:13 pm
You captured the essence so brilliantly.
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 7:51 am
Wednesday, May 14th 2014 at 2:20 pm
Wednesday, May 14th 2014 at 12:13 pm
You are making me feel incredibly homesick! Well said (:
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 2:01 pm
Thanks for reading! And sorry about the homesickness, I totally know how that feels. Hopefully you can make it back to SA soon for a braai!
Wednesday, May 14th 2014 at 7:19 am
Nou gaan ons braai…brought tears to my eyes..
Wednesday, May 14th 2014 at 1:03 am
Great, nou is ek honger en dors… braai tyd! Great write up by the way
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 1:52 pm
Thank you for reading!
Tuesday, May 13th 2014 at 8:17 pm
Braai’s yes, I’m Zambian but I co-sign everything in this article. BBQs don’t even come close
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 1:54 pm
That’s awesome to hear! Braais should be worldwide!
Tuesday, May 13th 2014 at 6:42 pm
My wife and I are looking forward to meeting other South Africans and indulging in the delicious chicken braais and South African wine at Vasona Park in Los Gatos and at Angel Island in May and in June.
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 1:51 pm
Tuesday, March 11th 2014 at 5:49 pm
oh I miss braais and sundowners!
Thursday, May 15th 2014 at 2:01 pm
Wednesday, March 5th 2014 at 9:34 am
I love a good bbq and it sounds like they do it right in South Africa!
Sunday, May 18th 2014 at 8:34 am
We don’t do BBQ’s in South Africa!