I instantly fell in love with Capetown, South Africa, and to date, it remains one of my favorite destinations. For starters, there is the amazing South African hospitality, the beautiful wine regions, and the spectacular coastal views. After a long and ugly history steeped in injustice and apartheid, South Africa began rebuilding and central to its efforts was embracing its multicultural diversity. There are twelve official languages in South Africa, covering various ethnic, linguistic, and tribal groups throughout the nation. In my opinion, no trip to South Africa is complete without visits to the Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill, Robbin Island, and Soweto to gain a better understanding and appreciation of this history.
One interesting neighborhood in Capetown is Bo kaap. While researching for my first trip to Capetown, I found countless photos of the colorful homes featured on social media. But the real story behind those Instagram-worthy backdrops is that the area, once called the Cape Quarter, was used to house slaves imported from Malaysia and Indonesia during the Dutch occupation. Later, while under British colonization and apartheid rule, the area was designated as Muslim-only. After apartheid was banned the residents painted their homes in bright, vibrant colors as a symbol of freedom and individual expression.
Today the colorful homes remain and Bo kaap is still rich in Muslim and Cape Malay traditions. I wanted to learn more about the neighborhood, the people, and the cuisine, which is quite popular throughout Capetown. My quest led me to Fadela Tolker of Cooking with Love, a longtime resident of Bo kaap, who offers Cape Malay cultural tours and cooking classes. Her beautiful purple home is centrally located on Wale Street, and she is known throughout the neighborhood for her cooking.
Upon arriving I confessed that I was a little tired following a long day of sightseeing. In response, she told me that she had endured a long day as well, but we would power through as best as we could. My love of food is my superpower, so I was reenergized and in my element as soon as we started cooking. I could tell that Fadela enjoyed teaching about her food and culture as much as I enjoyed learning. In between learning to fold samosas, roll out roti, and create a curry seasoning, we discussed the Cape Malay history and the Bo kaap neighborhood.
Time flew by, and soon enough, we were sitting down to enjoy a wonderfully prepared dinner of samosas, roti, curry chicken, rice, and dhaltjies. Everything was delicious and aromatic. While similar to Indian cuisine, the Cape Malay flavors tend to be slightly milder.
Given my love of spices, Faldela gifted me with a wonderful curry spice blend from her beautiful spice tin. It is truly an experience that I will cherish.