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Cape Malay cooking class: Evening in Jasmina’s kitchen

One of our favorite cultural immersive experiences is a Cape Malay cooking class, situated in the area called Bo-Kaap. Your first experience with the Bo-Kaap will always be memorable. Captivating all your senses, the suburb at the top of the hill shows off its diversity through its colourful buildings – lined up in pinks, blues and limes. As we reach our destination for the evening – our sense of smell awakens to the warm spices from Jasmina’s kitchen.

The door opens and we are greeted by the friendly smile of three Cape Malay women, ready and armed with wooden spoons and aprons to teach you a thing or two about their flavour-rich and wholesome food.

The Cape Malay community is rich in culture. They preserved many of their religious traditions, which played a huge role in shaping their history in Cape Town. This community has a predominantly Muslim background, but the actual word ‘Malay’ in this context, refers to the area that the community finds themselves in. Their food and traditions are influenced by various elements from their mixed heritage originating from slaves that were brought to Cape Town from Madagascar, East Africa, West Africa and Malaysia.

These influences are also seen in the Cape Malayan food. And this is where we started off – with a little background on the history and traditions. But we don’t stand still for too long – as we get right into the hands-on part. Jasmina explains all the spices she uses in her food, what Masala is, what kind of meats they use and then carefully demonstrates how to roll out a roti. This is the hard part – her swift movements and perfect end-results seem easy, until we try our hand at it! Not as easy as it looks! But the rootis are one thing – we now have to fold a samosa – a triangular parcel of a thin pastry that is filled with a curry mix of either vegetables or meat. This is not simple, but still a fun activity. The room is almost silent with concentration as the pile of samosas grows. In the background the sizzling of oil heating up completes the sensory moment.

What feels like a few minutes has now been quite a long event – but the wait was worth it. We move downstairs to beautifully laid out and festive tables. Our own samosas are served in style, with refreshing sweet tea (cold) on the side and all kinds of side dishes. The rootis are also beautiful and the balance of spices is certainly a highlight of the meal.

But the conversation dies down as the star of the evening makes its appearance – the Cous Sister. This is an oval-looking, golden brown ball, dusted in fluffy coconut flakes. Quite simple in appearance – nothing could have prepared me for the complex tastes and textures that this little puffy treat offers. Sweet and rich – this is the perfect way to end of this immersive experience and an evening in Jasmina’s kitchen.

But it’s not over yet – we are greeted with our own recipes and a bag full of beautifully coloured masala spices. I can’t wait to try this out at home!

If you are traveling to Cape Town to join one of our Faculty-led, School, Study Abroad or Service Learning Programs – make sure you ad the Cape Malay cooking class to your itinerary!