Missing Food from Home

I woke up this morning to a bright sunrise and a heavy humidity in the air. It instantly took me back to my hometown of Durban, and put me right back in my childhood bedroom, waking up for school on a hot summer's day. The only thing I was missing? A sea breeze... which got me thinking about all the other things I truly miss and appreciate about home. So I've decided to make a series of posts about things I miss from South Africa, and I'll start off here with...


South African cuisine and food culture is enormously difficult to sum up in a few sentences. I've had countless people ask me what South African food is, and usually I end up spurting out names of dishes which are popular, but not necessarily South African. Pizza, for example, is extraordinarily popular back home, but as we all know, has little to do with our heritage.
Samoosa - South African style.

As I've heard and read from many sources, South Africa has a very obvious "eating out" culture, and you would struggle to find a developed area that didn't offer you a myriad of foodie favourites, from sushi, steaks, to samoosas and sosaties. There are various flavours of restaurants in every city, which range from Brazilian to Vietnamese, to French-African fusion, to good old British pub-grub. Locals have coined the term "rainbow cuisine" to describe the bringing together of Indian, Malay, British, Dutch, and local African history into one big melting pot called South African cuisine.

Here I've listed some of the foods I find myself day-dreaming about in Thailand, and gush over to my new foreign friends whenever I get the chance. I apologise for any drool that might land up on your keyboard!

Bunny Chow

A hollowed-out half or quarter loaf of bread filled to the brim with saucy curry, served with a side of sambals (grated carrot, chilli, and onion), and luxuriously eaten with your fingers. They range in price dirt-cheap to still-pretty-cheap, and are now recreated in restaurants throughout the nation, and have even been featured in worldwide cooking shows. Bunny chows are an obsession in Durban, which is where they originated, although the exact story is hard to confirm. Some say they came about when Indian workers were made to work in sugar cane plantations and needed a way to bring their lunch to the fields. Others say bunny chows first made their appearance outside the back entrances and windows of locacafés, where they were gratefully eaten by the workers of colour who were not allowed into the café itself. Wherever they came from, they are delicious, comforting, and cheap, and I'd give a limb to have a quarter veg sitting in front of me right now!

Bunny Chow
Bunny chow and sambals.

Curries, dhals, rotis, naans

The man himself: Johnny of Johnny's Roti's.
Yes, I have a thing for Indian food, and in my opinion, I'll never be satisfied with the Indian food in Thailand. Durban is often pointed out as having the largest population of Indians outside India. There are small, family-run spice shops in every mall, and takeaway curry stands at all our universities. There are superb Indian restaurants in posh areas of the city, as well as locally-loved, inexpensive eateries in the not-so-posh parts too.

One of my favourite Indian places in Durban is a famous hole in the wall called Sunrise Chip n' Ranch, affectionately known as Johnny's Rotis. It's in a pretty dodgy area of town, and your massively-portioned, dirt-cheap rotis and bunny chows are served wrapped up in paper through cage-like bars. You will find every sort of character there, at all hours of the day or night, and it's the first place I'm taking any foreign friends to eat when I eventually get back home.

My other favourite place is a takeaway chain called My Diners (who knows why) which has a never-ending menu with fantastically cheap curries. For R60 (around $6 or ฿180) I'd treat myself to a rich Paneer Makhani (homemade cheese in a buttery tomato broth) with some fresh Roghni Naan (warm, flattened bread with butter and sesame seeds) - there's no way I'm recreating that deliciousness in Thailand.


There's a lot to be said about a supermarket that can make me lust after ready-to-eat meals. Usually I'm an advocate for fresh food and love the idea of home-grown vegetables going straight onto your plate. But as many South Africans would agree, Woolworths is our home-grown luxury superstore, that can beautifully fill your home from garden to wardrobe to kitchen. They're an inspirational brand for the future (I urge you to read all about their Good Business Journey) and have got me wishing there was something similar over here. Even though I never earned big bucks back home, I'd regularly stop into a Woolies to browse the deli section, meander through the produce aisles, sniff the vast selection of cheeses, and eventually leave with a cheap bottle of wine and a few takeaways for a night with friends.

Some of my favourite items in this world:  Butternut & Feta Canneloni; Sundried Tomato Soup; a mixed bag of Baby Spinach, Rocket & Watercress; a Cheese selection; and finally, a tub of layered Basil Pesto, Feta & Sundried Tomato.

South African treats: Rusks, Koeksisters, and Malva Pudding

The brand Ouma Rusks is so well-known in South Africa, it even has its own Wikipedia page. Many countries actually have their own variations of rusks, and you could even say biscotti or Melba toast are a sort of rusk. My personal favourite are the classic buttermilk ones from home - they remind me of being a little girl, dipping a rusk into tea and watching old soap operas with my great grandmother on her big wooden box of a TV. 

Another culinary gift from the Afrikaaners: the koeksister, a devilishly sweet and syrupy treat, smothered in gooey goodness and deep-fried to the perfect balance of crispy and soft. My stepmother, who is in no way Afrikaans, used to make mini "cake-sisters" for, ironically, me and my little sisters. The best ones I've found as I got older were from random little farm stalls out in the country which were cooked with some motherly love, as opposed to the generic, lifeless ones you might find in a supermarket. The only problem with koeksisters is that they are incredibly fattening, and incredibly addictive, which is never a wise combination.

Mmm, malva pudding. The best way to describe a malva pudding to someone who's never had it is by conjuring up the warm richness of a brandy pudding, and asking them to recreate the soft texture of the sponge, and the sticky sauce dribbling down the sides of the cake. Now, imagine it came from South Africa. All of a sudden, it's richer, and more fattening (yup, that's how we do it). Mix in a heap of apricot jam, add some home-made custard or simple vanilla ice cream, and you've got yourself a sticky, sweet, all-round comforting dessert.

Koeksisters and malva pudding.


Thailand is home to plenty of beers, and notoriously bad ones at that. I would never say I know anything about beer, but I do know how to taste them, and how they make me feel. I've never had a sip of Thai beer and gone, "Mmm!", and even though I'll admit beer in general doesn't bring "mmm"-ing to mind, I do find myself yearning for a sip of a South African brew now and then. Micro-breweries and home-breweries are taking off back home, and beer-on-tap bars are springing up in my hometown quicker than stray dogs are in Chiang Mai. This makes sense when you realise that South Africa consumes more beer than anywhere on the entire continent (and Africa is pretty big). Beer-drinking is a national past-time, and is a regular feature at family braais on the weekends, in township shebeens after a hard day's work, or in your local foosball bar with friends. 

My beer of choice is Hansa Pilsener - a pale gold, malty beer that I would get on tap at my favourite hang-out for around twenty bucks ($2 o฿60) for a draught. I also sometimes enjoyed a Castle Milk Stout, and the undisputed king of beers in South Africa is Black Label. The popular way to drink Black Label is to part with a twenty Rand note, and receive what we call a quart of beer (actually around 750ml). Yes, please!

I miss all of you delicious beery fools!

All the things I used to cook at home

This might seem unnecessary to mention, but I genuinely miss cooking at home, and all the food I came up with in my little Kitchen of Nom. Yes, I still cook in Thailand, but the ingredients are different, and some are harder to find. And some that I've been using for a decade are completely non-existent. For example, I no longer cook with butternut squash - I use pumpkin instead. And while, once upon a time, I was cooking Indian curries at least once a week, now I'm cooking Thai ones. Not to mention, I don't have an oven, which means no pizzas, mac and cheese, or veggie-bakes. Seems criminal. Anyway, here are some pics of the good stuff that I haven't made in way too long (sob):

Delicious fudge. I'm gonna bake the heck out of you, just because I can!
Did you know that cous cous stuffed in anything is delicious? (Peppers, squashes, mushrooms, aubergines, etc.)
Gooey cous cous stuffed tomatoes and cheese. Yummmm.
What's up, pie?
Oooh, you're a spinach and feta one. Yummy. 
My usual pizza toppings - onion, garlic, peppers, mushrooms, olives, herbs, feta and mozzarella.
Yes, I am one of those weirdos that likes their food with a bit of black. Ugh, perfect.

What do you miss from your hometown or home-country? Tell me in the comments!


  1. A new place across the road has just started making the bunny chow pizza. You are so right about the bunny chow; you have to eat one to know it. I look forward to seeing more.....

  2. I miss deep fryed cheese curds from Wisconsin--sooo good!

  3. Bunny chow pizza? What on earth could that be? Curry wrapped in pizza dough? =)

    I looked up deep fried cheese curds, Patty. Delicious! I hope to try some at a Wisconsin carnival one day!

  4. Cheese curds! Now that's a classic American snack! However...this bunny chow situation looks criminal. And word on the street says it crossed paths with pizza?! I would lose a few limbs for that.

  5. what do you mean by cous cous? poppy seeds? its a major indian ingredient but i dont think its used raw!

  6. Hi Mama-mia. Here's what Wikipedia says about couscous: "Couscous is a traditional Berber dish of semolina (granules of durum wheat) which is cooked by steaming." You should try some! It's delicious =)