Around the World – South Africa – Cape Town Eats Walking Tour

After last’s year venture in Bali into getting to know the local cuisine first hand, we were unfortunately not able to book a Cape Malay cooking course, but did stumble on something better!

The “Cape Town Eats” walking tour from Cape Fusion Tours is aimed to learn about the history of South Africa and Cape Town through exploring the back streets and experience its history, its people and its gourmet delights. We had asked upfront to Pam, the owner of Cape Fusion Tours, whether it was possible to include some extra features for the kids and accommodate some allergies, and they could indeed. She knows so many amazing places, that it is not an issue to tailor the walking tour to your liking.

During our 7-hour tour, we stopped to taste a mixture of South African traditional food,  street food and visit some artisan shops. The recommendation to only have a very light breakfast is totally worth following…

After being picked up from our guesthouse in Fresnaye, our guide for the day, Ryan, drove us to colourful Bo Kaap, the historical centre of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town. This term comes from the fact that the Dutch East Indian Company brought slaves to South Africa in the 17th century from Indonesia, plus a few from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India and Madagascar. The mainly Muslim slave populations had relationships with their local Dutch East Company masters and with the indigenous Khoi Khoi population resulting in a “mixed” population of people in the Cape. Furthermore, these groups also mixed their cuisines and use of spices, to become what is now known locally as Cape Malay cuisine.

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We walked down Wale Street to join the incredibly friendly Gamidah Jacobs of Lekka Kombuis (81 Wale Street) for a fun workshop on folding samosas and preparing chili-bites. There is more to folding samosas than meets the eye, but under the supervision of Gamidah we managed to produce some pretty decent ones.  A common misconception is that the Cape Malay cuisine is very hot. On the contrary, it uses a lot of spices, but it is not necessarily spicy. That it why we all were nibbling away on the (onion/mince and onion/cheese) samosas and the fabulous chili bites at 10 in the morning!

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Chili Bites Recipe

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup pea flour or chick pea flour
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. fennel
  • 1 tsp. leaf masala or roasted masala
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 spinach leaves, finely chopped
  1. Mix the dry ingredients and add about 1 cup of water and stir until the consistency is not too thick and not too thin
  2. Add the chopped onion and spinach leaves and mix them in
  3. Just before frying, add baking powder (for a cup of chilli bites mixture, add 1 tsp. of baking powder) and mix well
  4. With a tablespoon drop the mixture into the hot oil (180C/375F) and fry for about 3-4 minutes until golden brown

After the workshop, we crossed the street and visited Atlas Spices (104 Wale Street), the main spice shop where the Cape Malay community stocks up. We got some spices that are harder to get in the Netherlands and some that were completely new to us (Mother-in-Law and Father-in-Law masala and Potjiekos spices). In the meantime Ryan gave us a taste of meebos, a local sweet made from dried apricots.

We followed Ryan through the streets of Bo Kaap to Streetwires (77 Shortmarket Street).

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Streetwires is a fair trade organisation of people who work together to design market and create wire and bead art. In their studio they have about 60 employees, so they can focus on creating (by hand) the most astonishing pieces without the hustle and bustle of having to sell their products on markets/roadsides. Their shop has load of fine examples (in all sizes and price ranges).

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In the next door workshop they are welding the metal frames for the bigger works, like this pretty much life-size buffalo head. They also do some work for other local artists including those that did some of the installations near The Company’s Garden Restaurant (see below).
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The only trophies one should have mounted on the wall…
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Wondering what piece of art this would become 😉
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On the way back to Wale Street, we tried a Koeksister – a traditional Cape Malay spicy doughnut sprinkled with coconut – at this stall at the end of Rose Street. A bit strange at first due to the spices, but very nice altogether. Ryan again stuck with the fresh samosas.
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Wale Street with Signal Hill in the background
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Tritalia (75 Rose Street), Cape Town’s place to be for Vespa mopeds was a colourful sight as well

Although some Indian people came to South Africa as slaves in 1659, the majority came 150 years ago to work as indentured labour on the sugar cane fields of Kwazulu Natal and this province still has a large Indian population. Over the years their curry recipes ended up having a South African touch to them. One of the interesting culinary items is the “Bunny Chow“. A traditional bunny chow is quite simply a loaf of bread with the insides scooped out and filled with a spicy curry aimed for take out / food stalls (who needs more packaging, right?) That a bunny chow is an entire concept was proven at the our next stop: Honest Chocolate Café (66 Wale Street). Honest Chocolate produces artisanal chocolate products made from pure unroasted cocoa beans and combined with sugar only. As one would expect, the taste of their chocolate is quite strong, so a little goes a long way.

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A banana bread mini loaf filled with chocolate spread, vanilla ice cream and spiced nuts on the side. This delicious bunny chow went down with a mean flat white courtesy of Trump & Timbal Coffee Roasters!  The kids had their eyes set on the ice creams that are sourced from local Woodstock producer Sorbetière. No complaints there either!
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A hidden surprise behind the front door! Alas, it was still before lunchtime….

After we mentioned to Ryan that we had lunch in the Company’s Garden last time we were in Cape Town, but that the restaurant was mainly memorable due to the fact that one of our kids forgot his backpack there, he said that the restaurant had improved greatly since. After a few calls and a short stop on the Groentemarkplein / Greenmarket Square to browse the stalls for curios from all over Cape Town and South Africa, we had lunch in the Company’s Garden Restaurant (official address 15 Queen Victoria Street)

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The restaurant serves light meals and as well as a variety of traditional South Africa fare. As the clouds disappeared, we had our lunch outside enjoying the sun and great conversations with Ryan about local beers, wines, life in South Africa as well as his voice acting for Indian soap operas…

Bobotie Roti – a marvellous take on what are considered national dishes – and Fritter – beer battered fried camembert wedges with tomato and basil coulis – were chosen from the menu and the kids enjoyed their cheese laden rustic bread toasties. All advertised as starters, but still quite large portions (as usual in South Africa)…

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Malay Roti filled with traditional Bobotie accompanied by home made sambals and chutneys

After a stroll in the Company’s Garden – that was extended greatly by the kids and the incessant cuteness of the many, many, many squirrels 🐿🐿🐿- we ventured out to Haas Coffee (19 Buitenkant Street) were we sampled the lovely gourmet chicken and vegetarian versions of the traditional Bunny Chow. Definitely not suitable for kids as they were quite spicy! Luckily there were also some killer milkshakes on the menu too.

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Then there was an option of the Death Wish… Hailing from NY state in the USA, it packs a huge caffeine punch: “sure to keep you going till next week”. Thank you, but no thank you….

Final stop was Truth Coffee (36 Buitenkant Street), an amazingly decorated steam punk themed café, serving breakfast and all day lunch until 4pm. It is also the home of Truth Coffee Roasting. The UK Newspaper, The Telegraph, even lauded it as one of the world’s best coffee shops.

To be honest, we were quite full from all the goodness we sampled throughout the day and having a coffee at 3pm would keep me awake the entire night. Therefore, I stuck with a Fiery Dragon Ginger beer (from tap) although the items on the menu looked very appealing. The ladies sampled the Silky Vengeance, their espresso iced coffee, which was an ideal cooler as the temperature outside crept towards 25C.

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No sugar required; this was one sweet excursion!

Afterwards, Ryan dropped us off at our guesthouse, whilst pointing out many great restaurants and bars along the way. This Cape Town Eats walking tour was an ideal way to see and learn a lot from downtown Cape Town – thanks to our great guide – and sample all kinds of delicacies throughout the day. As you may see from the addresses the various venues are located pretty close to each other, so it’s no a huge amount of walking involved.

Please note that alcoholic beverages are not included, so you need to pay them yourself at the various restaurants. We thought that this full day excursion is reasonably priced at R1200 (EUR 73 / USD 82) for adults and R500 (EUR 30 / USD 34) for kids, but that may very well depend on your appetite and inclination towards alcoholic beverages…

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