Obviously, only steak will do when you have THAT meat craving. A craving I suspect is unique to South Africans, and maybe a smattering of other carnivores around the globe. We invented the braai, just to add some variety to sitting down to one +200g hunk of charred meat, by cooking chops, (pork/lamb/mutton) wors, (beef sausage) and chicken in pieces , together. We have clearly overcome a certain self-consciousness because it is now proudly served at braai-restaurants in a large skottel (enamel tub) for easy crowd access. All 15 kg’s (or thereabouts) of it. Nothing, nothing is ever left.
When home, we braai, naturally. Every South African male worth his braai seasoning will tell you that the chops he cooks, are the best you will ever eat. The Karoo lamb chops below, cooked by my brother, are a hard act to beat. The uniquely flavoured meat is attributed to the diet these lambs have, picking at the low-growing Karoo veld before they head off into the sunset to become dinner.
The Xhosa braai-restaurants in Cape Town, AmaDoda and Mzoli’s are interesting in that they have uniquely different seasonings/spice mixes that they use on their meats, at both places to successful effect. I liked the fact that at Mzoli’s you get to choose your meat from the butcher next door. It’s good being involved with your dinner like that, you know. But while it’s being cooked you go and chill under the mist sprays and drink loads of beers.
It being part of my job description to cook steak for paying customers, I’ve learnt how pernickety people here are about their meat. One thing that irks customers in particular is when the steak is sliced for them. Maybe they feel that you have now removed part of that Neanderthal joy of sawing into a solid slab of meat, or maybe they want to see their meat in as close a state to which animal it came from, i.e. they want to be able to visualise their meal as a valid part of a cow’s rump. Who knows, but places that get away with the slicing thing are The Duchess of Wisbeach, who serve it with a fine béarnaise, and HQ, where the only choice is your dinner tipple.
And then there are the stalwart Grills, Theo’s, The Hussar and the Buzbey (Sea Point). Their tried and tested way of doing things: this is our selection (rather extensive really) this is what we specialise in; this is what we’ve been serving for the last few decades, and we’re still turning the tables. Why fix something if it ain’t broke. Besides, where the hell else are you going to find a Carpetbagger (remember that?) steak, or Hollandse Biefstuk? Yeah. Thought so.