Let’s Talk Umphako / Padkos

I’m back, sorry for the hiatus..  I recently got news about a high school friend’s passing and had to make a trip home to pay my last respects.  Life is unpredictable, one day you are on the phone with a friend, the next day you hear the person died from an asthma attack.  The sad thing is that the good ones, the goal orientated ones, the living by the book ones and the ones contributing more to society always go first.  In all of this, we are reminded that time is a gift and it is indeed our most precious resource.   There’s a quote that explains the significance of time by one of my favourite motivational book authors, Rick Warren.

“Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time….”


Anyways, my trip inspired this post on umphako….

Every day in our country,  thousands of people travel  from the rural areas to the urban lights and vice versa.  They are travelling for many reasons like going on holiday, to get jobs, to go to university, to visit relatives, attend weddings, graduations, traditional ceremonies, parties or funerals.

All these people have one thing in common, they  have to eat on their journey and some have to take some of their umphako to wherever they are going.

First and foremost, umphako is food that is prepared to be eaten on the journey.   However, that is not only the case, one is expected to bring umphako with them when they get to the destination.  Therefore, it can be food that is taken to the family or relatives when visiting.   This one time I traveled with a former colleague, an elderly man  to the Eastern Cape.  Once he arrived at his place, as he was taking his bags from my boot, I noticed he had two raw full road runners (umleqwa/ farm chickens).   He said “You know my child when you come home you are always expected to bring something from the other province.  You would swear they don’t have food here in the Eastern Cape. ” And that is the truth.  I know from personal experience.  My family gathers around me when I get home and it has become a ritual that as soon as I get a cup of coffee I’m gonna start taking out umphako or gifts from my bags. I don’t know about the rest of the family, but my 13 year old nephew gets really disappointed if I go home empty handed.   It doesn’t matter what I take with me, be it food, clothing, oh and money is always appreciated.

Even neighbours ask for beer.  They call it ukuvusela.  Guys would tell you about this, but one has to buy booze for the locals.

During student days, Lornah, a Shangaan friend of mine used to return from home (Giyani) with a 20 litre bucket full of cookies baked by her mom.  Snack time meant going to Lornah’s room, having tea and some biscuits.

Nowadays, lack of time to prepare umphako and the prevalence of fast food outlets has gotten people to rely on just buying food on the road.  Then buy another bucket of KFC for the family when they get home.   Different strokes for different folks, that’s what it is.  One must do whatever works for them.  People light up with excitement when you give them umphako, having umphako for family, friends and relatives is just one of those simple ways to put a smile on someone’s face.   Let’s show our loved ones we care and appreciate them while we still have time.

I baked Potch Cakes / Amakhekhe for this trip, see featured image.   What do you usually prepare for umphako?

Check out some of the tweets on #umphako from the people around the country….



About Author


Thuli Gogela is a Food Technologist with 8 years of experience developing products in food manufacturing. She is dedicated to discovering wholesome traditional dishes and recipes with a distinctive taste from different parts of the African continent. Thuli is well known for her food blog, Mzansi Style Cuisine which was established in 2010. She saw a gap in the traditional food market that people were hungry for. From there, it didn’t take long to build her brand. In 2013, she started writing a recipe column for the Cape Times for and has collaborated with some of the biggest brands in South Africa namely, Knorr, Nedeburg Wines, First Choice and Spekko rice. Not only does Thuli feature traditional African dishes, she’s also open to developing recipes, food consultations and brand collaborations.

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