From succulent steaks to sumptuous seafood, juicy burgers to melt in the mouth ribs; there’s nothing better than that distinctive taste of food cooked on the Braai. And if you’ve visited us at The Lodge, you’ll know exactly what we mean!
But what is a Braai, and why is it such a beloved South African tradition?
The word Braai is Afrikaans for barbecue or roast, originating with the Afrikaner people. Nowadays, it has been adopted by English-speaking South Africans as another word for barbecue, to describe the equipment and the method of cooking. Although despite similarities in how the food is prepared, there are considerable differences in the traditions of a Braai and a barbecue. Braaing is one of the few things in South Africa where racial and cultural differences are irrelevant. The love of meat cooked over fire is a passion that all South Africans share.
Pronounced “bry”, rhyming with the word “dry”, the traditional fuel for a Braai is wood, although charcoal is often used in modern times for convenience. This is where one big distinction lies between a Braai and a barbecue. While it is fairly normal for a barbecue to use gas as fuel, this is not common practice with a Braai, where the traditional use of an open flame is still the preferred cooking fuel of choice.
The food from a Braai is of course delicious, but the whole experience is also very social. Traditionally the men will gather around the Braai as it heats to the right temperature, while the women will prepare the salads, sides and desserts. Then there’s the eating, drinking, and maybe a little more drinking! This is the whole point of a Braai; a casual and laid back social gathering with friends and family that can last for hours. You can always guarantee a lively atmosphere at any Braai event.
Although the gathering itself is always very social, there will only be one “Braaier” or chef, usually the host. It is often frowned upon to interfere with the cooking as each Braaier will normally have a specific set of tools and cooking techniques. So while, others will stand around the Braaistand with the host, this is purely for the social experience as opposed to assistance with the cooking.
Whereas barbecues usually take place in the daytime, South Africans will Braai anytime. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or even during the night; a Braai will be fired up at any hour of the day. And in all weathers too. Braais are not reserved for only warm weather and will often be held under cover. Many South African homes also have indoor Braai areas.
All South Africans love good food and really will Braai anything. Obviously meat is a staple part of any Braai including steak, chicken, boerewors (a type of South African sausage), and often game meat. However, delicious side dishes and vegetables are also cooked over the flames. Whatever is on the menu, you can guarantee that there is never a shortage of food at any Braai event.