Book title: The Cape Malay Cookbook
Author: Faldela Williams
Cape Town, South Africa 1998
Softcover, 21x28 cm, 96 pages, throughout colour photos
Cape Malay cooking has had considerable influence on South African culinary traditions and its virtues have been extolled by such writers and epicures as Laurens van der Post and Louis Leipoldt. Although it is predominantly Indonesian in origin, Malay cooking has been largely influenced by Indian cuisine hence the curries, rotis and samoosas. The baked puddings, tarts and biscuits show a strong Dutch influence, while the delicious fruit preserves are mainly French Huguenot in origin.
The name Cape Malay is perhaps something of a misnomer as it refers to followers of the Islamic faith, whose forefathers were brought to the Cape as slaves from the Indonesian island of Java, over 300 years ago. They were not associated with Malaysia in any way, except that they spoke Malay, a kind of universal language in that part of the world. From its very beginning, South Africa has been a melting pot where East meets West.
In the 17th Century, Malay cooks were very much sought after in the predominantly Dutch homes and soon learned how to prepare solid Dutch fare such as melktert, but added their own embellishment of grated nutmeg or cinnamon. They also used the exotic spices of the land of their birth to create such well-known dishes as bobotie, sosaties and pickled fish, which were almost always accompanied by chilli at jars, blatjangs and sambals.
Many Malays were also expert fishermen, so that fish, especially snoek, and other seafoods became an important part of their diet, and the sound of the fish horn is still remembered by many Malays of an older generation. Sweetmeals, like syrupy koeksisters and crunchy tameletjies, ever-popular delicacies were reserved for Sundays and feast days. Desserts were not all that common and most of the fruit found in abundance at the Cape was eaten fresh or it was preserved in a light sugar syrup.