Bajias is a Mozambican snack made with beans. In Nigeria it is called Akara……
The first time I got to know and taste Bajias was last year while we were shooting an insert for the show, I am Woman. A street vendor was preparing them and they were sold at R1.00 each. I imagined the fritters would have that beany-taste since the main ingredient is beans but to my surprise they didn’t. The lady mentioned that Bajias is a street food recipe from Mozambique. One needs to grind the beans until they form a paste. Modern technology allows us to do that using a food processor. What I found fascinating was that the street vendor was grinding them with a pestle and motar right there and then.
So, recently I went to a Nigerian food shop and asked the shop assistant about the Akara. He took me through the recipe and I ended up buying black eyed beans from the shop. The difference between the Bajias and Akara is that there is an option of adding powdered fish (shrimp) in the Nigerian recipe. Otherwise, it can be left completely vegetarian.
The recipe is fairly easy to prepare but the only thing that became a drag for me was separating the beans from the skin. It took longer than I expected. Maybe I did it wrong, I don’t know.
Anyways, I think Bajias / Akara would make for a great snack while watching soccer during the world cup. What do you say? Have you ever tasted Bajias or Akara?
Bajias / Akara (Mozambican / Nigerian Bean Fritters)
500ml (2 cups) black eyed beans
1 onion, cut into quarters
1 red/green/yellow pepper, cut into chunky strips
1 vegetable stock cube
Few sprigs of parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Oil for frying
I’ve come to realize that I feature other places, restaurants and people from the different provinces. However, I never feature my own backyard, the Eastern Cape Province. The reason for that is because whenever I go home I just want to spend time with my family and relax. But that is unfair. There is so much vibrancy in the province but for now I’ll let you in on my hometown, Queenstown. Ask anyone, Queenstown is a vibey and happening small town known for its beautiful people and their daring personalities. For an example; the audacious Koyo from the music group 3 Sum, Zenande Mfenyane aka Noluntu Memela, the amazing actress with locks to die for from South Africa’s favourite soapie, Generations, not forgetting, Avumile Qongqo gorgeous leggy model.
We all have stuff that we look for when we get home. They can be things, places and people that give us a sense of familiarity and a feeling of welcome. A sense of relaxation and peacefulness. Home is a place where people have known you since your skinny kid days. And if you have done well to shape up your life those same people will be the first to say “Ey, you are doing well and we are proud”. They can also be the same people who give you direction and guidance when everything is a little fuzzy or not going as planned in life.
Home is that place where the neighbor will come and ask for money for beer because you are coming from the city or that annoying neighbour that keeps on asking “when are you getting married?”.
In my case, Queenstown, a small town with one busy street called Cathcart Road in the Eastern Cape is what I call home. It’s a place with a Joburg like weather; icy cold Winter and wet and rainy in Summer with lightning and thunderstorms. These are some of the things that I look forward to when I go home:
The “Mielieeeeeees!” ladies were made popular by the comedy series, Madam and Eve. You find them everywhere in rural towns. When I say mielies I mean real corn, not the sweet corn you find in every retail outlet. In Cape Town, one really struggles to find these ladies and if lucky you get to find them in Langa Township. In the Eastern Cape they don’t yell “Mielies!” instead they yell “Umbona bethuna umbona! Umbon’oshushu!” I bought some mielies from Sis Thandiwe, she was pretty cool and even posed for a pic!
MaZondi: The street vendor that sells Isibindi (Sheep Liver)
As a school kid I bought street food, as a teenager I started questioning the hygiene of the people and the conditions in which the food was prepared. This is how I got re-introduced to street food: My mom used to buy sheep liver from a street vendor whenever we went shopping. She would buy from the vendor while I, my two sisters and brother waited in the car. Then come back and let us watch while she savoured it. The aroma would be so good, we ended up trying and were pleasantly surprised. I went to buy Isibindi from MaZondi, there was a long queue and it was raining but people didn’t care. I bought a plate and took it home to my mom. You should have seen the look on her face. Haha!
Writing on the wall
A lot of black households have this writing on their walls. Back in the day it used to be a glittery writing. The one at my mom’s house has been there for over two decades. If we moved houses, we moved with it.
Painting in my room
The painting that is in what used to be my room – In 1997 when my family relocated to Queenstown, my mom bought what you call a dutch house (at home we call it a Jan van Riebieck house). She bought the house from an elderly Afrikaaner couple, the Viljoens. They left us with all their curtains and some of the decorations. Lord knows we didn’t have curtains for all the windows in that house. I thought that was very kind of them. The painting still hangs in the room, it’s not my room anymore as you can expect after living in Cape Town for 12 years. The words on the panting still serve as my daily reminder – “Watch and Pray- for you know neither the day nor the hour”.
Paraffin lamp and Castiron Iron
These little things get one to appreciate their journey in life. You think back that ey, we started from cooking making fire outside then progressed to a Primer stove to a gas stove and finally an electric stove. Clothes were ironed using a castiron iron and they would burn the hell out of one’s clothes. White school shirts were ironed these irons. Remembering this journey makes me not to take any of my blessings for granted. I also like to share my story and experience because there is somebody out there still using these lamps and irons. Them knowing that somebody who started from there can make, I can only hope it gives them inspiration that they can also make it in life.
Naleding Sports Bar
Naleding is owned by former teacher, Zwai Ngodo. He used to be my teacher in high school and he hit the hell out of us. Hehe! Unfortunately, Maths was not one of my strong points. So I got the beatings for not knowing the answers. Mr Ngondo left his teaching career and he started a very popular sports bar called Naleding. It is a place to be! Ziyakhipha!
Man’s Braai Place
If you talk of Queenstown and are looking that place where everyone hangs out then Mans is the place for you. Mans is a Queenstown version of Tembisa’s Busy Corner. You should see it during the festive season. It is definitely the place to be.
Everyone of us has that food item they loved in their childhood. For me it’s a Shamrock pie. So whenever I am back in the province I have to get one.
Now that you know what I love about my hood, tell me what do you love about your hood?
In zimbabwe, March is the month symbolizing the end of the wet season. In most cases people in the urban areas rely on farmers to produce and sell to them their farm produce which includes our cuisines mostly. The food that is predominantly produced by these farmers includes Chibage (mealies), Nzungu (ground nuts), Nyimo (round nuts), Nyemba (cow peas), Manhanga (pumpkins), Tomatoes etcetera. When these foods are ripe (early March to mid April) just before harvesting time, they sell some of the fresh produce to vendors who will thus sell the foods as fresh or cooked food to the consumer.
Starting from early millennium when the economy of the country started to crumble, most people opted to go to urban areas in pursuit of a better living. Most of them who were without qualifications started to be involved in street vending. The government didn’t welcome the move as the majority of the vendors were operating without licenses, worse still they were operating at prohibited areas. However, as time goes on people started to realize that these vendors were bringing back the indigenous cuisines which they had last ate a long time ago due to convenient food products that are now flooding the market.
If you are walking in most of the streets in Zimbabwe’s cities, especially in the ghettos and at local terminus, vendors will be all over trying to make a life through sales. These vendors will be selling Roasted Mealies, Roasted Ground Nuts and Cooked Round Nuts, Oranges, Naartjies, Bananas, Guavas amongst other foods especially during this period. People always consume these foods with enjoyment not only because of affordability (value for money) but because these food items remind them of Kumusha (ekhaya / at home). Kumusha is where these foods are produced mostly by small scale farmers. Others even decided to start kitchens on the streets of light industries where they will be selling Sadza (pap) served with either Hove (fish), Maguru (tripe), Beef or Chicken depending on the menu of the day.
Even though street vendors who do not have licenses are sometimes raided by the police, some have managed to acquire licenses and rose from just being a street vendor to becoming suppliers of fresh produce to small business enterprises.
Do you think street vending should be illegal? Or it should be legal if done at designated places? What if customers are not willing to walk to that designated area and prefer to buy in the street? Or should government entities that are responsible for the cities build mini markets in some of the streets populated by vendors?
A friend of mine, Thabo, is crazy about Skopo, infact he calls himself a connoisseur Skoposseur. He knows all the Skopo joints in Cape Town and in Joburg. In his opinion what makes the best Skopo eating experience is meat that is soft and the adventure is in having to look for it. In other words, uyaskhendla yena iSkopo ~ he tears it apart. One would not understand the Skopo craze but in the townships it is loved and some refer to it as babalaas (hangover) food. Some love the ears, tongue etc. I just love the crunchiness of the ears. My brother broke one of my knives trying to get to the brain.
So I asked Thabo, the self proclaimed Skoposseur to take me to the best Skopo joint in Cape Town. According to him, the best Skopo is cooked and sold by a group of guys in Khayelitsha. We drove to the joint, it is situated on the side of the street. The guys were still setting up when we got there. But hey, I was rolling with a Skoppsseur, we drove to a joint in Kraaifontein. They don’t make the best Skopo, but if the craving has spoken one can give them a go. The ladies at the Kraaifontein were kind enough to give us a breakdown of their process and they let me take pictures. For some reason they were amused by the whole experience.
Step 1: Scorching
Scorch it to no decimal point. The ladies are currently using a paraffin burner which they fill up and scotch about ten heads until the next refill. They put the head on a wooden log, turn the head around with one hand while the other hand is holding the scorcher.
There should be no traces of hair on the Skopo after scotching. They need to look somewhat like this…
Step 2: Cleaning
They are cleaned using a “pot skryver”. Once again, the wooden log is used to support the Skopo. A cloth is used in-between to remove some of the grime.
After the scraping and wiping, the Skopo looks like in the picture below. They are then washed to remove all the grease and dirt.
Step 3: Cutting and Cooking
The cleaned up Skopo is then cut into half lengthwise using an axe. The cooking process begins and it is done outside in big cast iron pots. The ladies have at least one guy allocated to this task. He tends to the fire and oversees the cooking process. Skopo is cooked in boiling water and only salt is added to it. It is then cooked until tender then set aside. The ladies cover up the cooked Skopo to protect it from flies.
Step 4: Adding Flavour
In Xhosa we say “hamba uzobona” which means go somewhere or travel and you’ll see something new. That’s the case when it comes to this step. The ladies at the Kraaifontein Skopo Joint apply an orange looking spice to the cooked Skopo. However, this stage is optional as the customers are asked whether they would like to have it or not. The Skopo is then served, but in this case it was wrapped in newspapers.
Now I would like to hear from you….Do you know anyone who is a Skoposseur? Do you have a favourite Skopo Joint in your area? What is your favourite part to eat in a Skopo?
I had to pick up a colleague from the train station early this morning and saw peoplke flocking around street vendors buying items such as vetkoek (fatcakes), russians, and polony. I took a few images of the food. According to one of the vendors, they sell the food to the people that work in the industrial areas and they sell like hot cakes. The demand is high. Come to think of it, I used to buy these items when I started working. I took a train from Cape Town to N’dabeni and there was a lady there selling vetkoek. They are still warm at the time of sale.
We decided to buy a few items. Besides, the vendors do not dare let you take pictures if you are not buying. The guys that work in the industrials areas love thise items especially the ones that use public transport. The lady that makes the rostekoek mentioned that she prepares the dough at night before she goes to bed then wake up very early in the morning to bake them in the oven. The items are reasonably priced making them affordable to the target market; russians sell at R3, fried fish at R5 and vetkoek sell at R1.50 each. These items sell out everyday and they are always fresh, which makes them more appealing to the people that buy them.
What is your favourite street food? Which items are being sold in your hood? Do you ever buy from the vendors?
Driving along Olifantsfontein road on a chilly morning in Jozi, I caught sight of about 5 men dressed in overalls and aprons. They were cooking on big cast iron pots, one was stirring the pap, the second one chopping the liver, the third chopping onions, the fourth was cleaning the offal and the fifth was busy with the fire. I’ve never seen men cooking in such big pots in the city. I found that to be very interesting……
I pulled over and went to have a look at what was being cooked in those big pots. Pap, sheep’s heads, sheep liver, indigenous chicken, mutton and tripe were simmering in the pots. I reckoned I was in for a treat as I don’t usually get all these delicacies served at one place except for when we slaughter a sheep back at home. I watched as some of the food was being prepared, minimal seasoning is used i.e. salt and some peppers. If you thought stirring /cooking pap for six people at home was hard work then try stirring a pap pot prepared for serving 80-100 hungry people. Tjoe!
Oaitse, a humble, dedicated, and disciplined young man is managing this initiative. Him and his older brother came up with the idea and Oaitse is managing the business on a daily basis.
Usually young men are seen braaing at Shisa Nyama’s so it is rare to see them cooking traditional food especially on a large scale. I asked Oaitse a few questions about his inspiration and food background.
Q: What inspired you to start the business?
A: After 10 years of working I wanted to do something for myself and I saw a gap in food especially the traditional food. A lot of people are doing Shisa Nyamas we wanted to do something different.
Q: Where did you learn you to cook?
A: I used to watch my mother and grand mother cook but I really started to learn how to cook from grade 7 because I was at boarding school therefore had to learn to be independent.
Q: I notice most of your customers are men do you have women buying your food?
A: Men make the majority of our customers but we do get some regular female customers. Some of them come from far but they are willing to travel just for the food.
Q: How often do they come?
A: They usually come on Saturdays. Unlike men who usually have their food on the spot these women bring saucepans and carry their food home for household consumption. Mostly they buy Mala le mogudu (tripe).
On chatting with some of the customers I wanted to know what they thought of the food and what makes them keep coming back. A guy named Richard replied:
“The food is delicious as a result some of us are not even from around this area but we don’t mind driving from the other side of town just to buy the food. At home our wives don’t want to cook offal because according to them preparing such indigenous food is tedious and tripe invites flies.”
One of the customers said that he once bought a sheep’s head and feet expecting them to be prepared at home instead it rot in the fridge.
As a gesture of ubuntu since I was the only woman amongst 30 men Oatse offered me a man’s portion of pap and tripe. As I surprised by the size of the food other customers joking said that the food is for men and Oaitse and his team are acquainted with serving men.
Customers come park their cars whether for a take away or to eat by the fire. As I was busy taking pictures of the food, some of the customers volunteered to have their photos taken as well. Hehe!
Although I emphasised that I need just a few photos they urged me to take me. More pictures will be posted on the Facebook page.
Do you ever buy food from the street vendors? Or are you one of those concerned about the hygiene?
Personally growing up I used to sneer at the thought of buying, let alone eating street food. My mom used to buy for herself while my sisters and I watched in disgust. One day she bought fried sheep liver and we were drawn by the mouth watering aroma, we actually wanted to taste …..maybe we were hungry. Eversince, I never looked back……..
I recently visited Langa Township in Cape Town on a Saturday afternoon and had chats with three street vendors, MaDlamini, Mam’Msobo and Zukisa. They are selling chops and wors; cooked & braaied mealies and braaied chicken, respectively. Their stalls are situated around the taxi rank where the streets are buzzing with people everywhere. There are many of them in the same area selling raw and cooked food. I was thrilled by the courtesy they showed me despite their competitive work.
The first time I visited Mam’Msobo we spoke about how she could improve the hygiene and she was very keen on improving. I visited again after a month and I was very happy to see that she’s made a few changes and planning to do more.
The food sold by these vendors is very tasty and most of it has cultural relevence for an example the braaied mealies and cooked tripe.
I asked the people who say they wouldn’t buy the food why they say so. They all say it’s a concern about the hygiene that compels them not to buy. Some say there are usually a lot of flies around the food especially in the summer season and that puts them off. Fair enough, the visibility of flies around food can put anyone off. However, these vendors solely survive on the money they make from selling the food. Families are raised, houses are built, and children are sent to school all from the money made from selling food on the streets. The families also get involved in the business i.e. MamMsobo has her teenage son Simphiwe helping her, MaDlamini’s teenage daughter always comes to help on weekends and Zukisa was working with his teenage nephew on the day I visited.
Everyone is talking about the 25% of population that is unemployed. Honestly, there’ll always be people that are unemployed, but what is inspirational about these food vendors is the initiative they took to make a living. They could have been beggars on the street with cut outs reading “unemployed, I need money to feed my family” but they are not.
Evidently, they are getting support from the locals judging from the mere fact that they continue being commited to the business. Perhaps they just need help on how they can improve the hygiene aspect i.e. if hygiene is the only thing putting people off.
My plea is that we support and advise the food vendors on how they can improve their business.
What’s your opinion on street food? Do you ever buy it?