Thursday, 27 January 2011

A Mouthful Of Zebra, Ostrich & Springbok; A Cultural Divide?

By Philippa Morton.

Once upon a time all we knew was what we knew. We also knew what we didn’t know. Then, as life went on, we found out there were things we never knew we didn’t know. And with that said, did you know that the one thing we can be sure of is that life changes and if one cannot accept change, then perhaps we cannot accept our life and live it.

As a food writer, at times, there may be foods I do not particularly want to swallow. But I am wanting and willing to take a chance for the rest of us who won’t! I love what I do and feel scorn for those of us who are unable to wrap our tongue around a new flavour or unusual morsel. Scorn yes, but also sadness for you schmucks! You provide me with a great job that I enjoy. I can’t complain about going to high-end restaurants and stuffing my chewer in the name of making sure you lot are not going to keel over from pathetic, untrained taste buds.

Yeah, you figured, I care not for those who are picky and who don’t eat this and who won’t eat that! If it wasn’t for the adventurous amongst us, perhaps we would not have the pleasures of seaweed salad, sushi, and squid rings today. Indeed, it occurs to me that a portion among us would want to turn our nose up at scrumptious African foods, so carefully prepared at Camden’s Shaka Zulu bar and restaurant.

So screw up your faces, and eat your heart out friends, cos if you want to be picky, you should know, that you are a sad case. Chef Barry Vera knows his work. Biltong (dried meat) is made to perfection and not a scrap was left on anyone of my counterparts’ plates when I went for a recent tasting. Now, THERE is something for you, my Neanderthal meat-eating friends. My crew and I were highly impressed with mighty spreads of Kudu, Springbok, Lamb, Boerewors and Ostrich.

Together we made a powerful foray into the spread, leaving a whimpering land of devastation on our platter. Not for long though, as service is part of the hospitable African culture, (and yes Shaka Zulu makes every effort to employ Africans – from kitchen to bar) we were soon served with traditional mince Baboti which I enjoyed more than the version I’d eaten in South Africa. Chef Vera understands well, that to cater for the citizens of the UK there are some special adjustments to make to suit our palates. Little tweaks, great peaks.

And there is even something more to look forward to: in amongst all this - Shaka Zulu does not cease to surprise; a joker in (hardly) a pack of cards – zebra will be gracing the tables of the restaurant in the coming months. A colleague likened it to eating horse “Well I wouldn’t eat a horse”. Stop making such a hullabaloo for goodness sake, 50 years ago we weren’t even eating pizza and now we would never question eating something like veal. Zebra are a wild animal that are not endangered. It’s simply black or white my friends.

Soft, sweet, gooey and well, just ambrosia; the KoekSisters that is. Plaited ropes of dough deep fried and doused in thick sticky syrup to mute even the chattiest amongst us. While you come to terms with how utterly angelic these plaited dough things are, you’ll go from mute to moans as you cry out for more. Once again, Vera has listened and learned; listening to a South African customer who knows how to cook them.

Shaka Zulu is a unique concept, that I believe pushes the boundaries of food. Why has it taken so damn long, though? It’s about time someone picked up African cuisine, brought it to the people, who need to get over their pathetic concepts of what food should be. In reality, how does it differ to Asian or Thai cuisine? Only in the way that as a culture, we have embraced and accepted it. So plainly said, it’s time you know what the world is about. It’s time you know African food.

Trust me, I really do not believe African cuisine is too hard to swallow! So before I give you another mouthful, just eat it why don’t you!


  1. Fussy eaters make me sick. And not many things do, as unlike them I have a robust metabolism.

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