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The Cape Malay Cuisine Story

The Cape Malay Cuisine Story

Visits to this beautiful country are a great way to see just how various races and cultures have moulded together and the food is a great example.

The Cape Malay people descend from slaves brought over by the Dutch East India Company from Indonesia to the Western Cape.  Located on Signal Hill in Cape Town is the picturesque Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap.  This modern day Cape Malay community is a popular stop on a vacation incorporating the Mother City.

The beginnings of Cape Malay cuisine

Many of the slaves were employed in the kitchens of the Dutch settlers, and with such an eclectic mix of Javanese, Malaysian and Indian, it wasn’t long before their way of cooking was incorporated into the traditional Dutch and European dishes fusing together to form what is now known as Cape Malay cuisine.


Chances are you will get a taste of this fusion in some of your meals, particularly in the restaurants around Cape Town. For something different, take a tour of the Bo-Kaap and you may get the opportunity to sample the food in one of the local homes themselves - purists will often tell you it's the only place where you'll find true Cape Malay cooking.

So what makes Cape Malay Cuisine Unique?

Some say, it's the spices, with Turmeric being the primary spice that gives many of the dishes their distinctive flavour, along with garlic, a chilli and ginger combination, rosewater, allspice, fenugreek, nutmeg, saffron, mustard seeds, cardamom, cumin, star anise and many, many more being essential and ever present ingredients in the local kitchen!

If you’ve been lucky enough to sample the Cape Malay cuisine on your South African vacation you can be forgiven for thinking it’s the spices themselves that define the dish, but, more than just the presence of the spices it’s the way the flavours are layered with each spice being carefully measured and added as a counterpoint to the previously added spices resulting in a dish that is distinctly Cape Malay and distinctly South African!

Talk May Be Good But...

A real Cape Malay meal is worth a thousand words, and for that reason we suggest a visit to South Africa.  With its wealth of attractions - landscapes, cities, wildlife, scenery, and of course, food - you'll surely find plenty of reasons to make the trip!

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