Welcome to my new series called Global Gourmet, in which I speak to South Africans living in other corners of the world and find out about their favourite new dishes and what tastes of home they miss the most.
This week I speak to Faatimah Hendricks from Cape Town, South Africa who moved to China at the beginning of 2015.
Tell me a bit about how you came to live in China.
I changed career paths which led me to China.
South Africa is a melting pot of cultures which means the food is as diverse as the people. Which South African dishes did you grow up eating and is it still part of your meal plan now?
Curries, bredies, pasta dishes, roast chicken, ribs and meat. Vegetables. Rice dishes like akhni and briyani. A huge variety, really. I make almost everything besides bredies, ribs and roasted meat. I have non stick pots, so I can’t get potbrood for bredies and I saw a whole rib cage of a cow being sold (raw), so I wouldn’t bother buying ribs.
What would you say is the best Chinese dish you’ve eaten? Describe the dish and what you love about it.
There are a few I really love. One is called spring onion and beef over rice. That’s literally how the dishes are named. It’s a bed of rice with cooked spring onion and tiny bits of beef over it. It’s in a thin gravy or sauce. Another I like is beef fried rice. It’s small bits of beef and veg like carrots fried with rice. I prefer the rice dishes over the noodle dishes.
What is your favourite Chinese dish to cook?
I can’t cook Chinese food. I don’t know how. I’ll learn eventually.
Have you tried any weird or unusual Chinese dishes and what did you think of it? (Would you recommend or did it make you gag?)
I never eat anything strange. I am very weary of what I eat. I cook all the time, but when I do buy it’s from one place only… from the Lanzhou or Lamian (same thing). It’s like a franchise of diners. They are not quite restaurants. They are owned by Muslim Chinese and can be found on every block. Lamian refers to “beef pulled noodles”. The noodles are handmade (it’s fascinating to watch) by pulling and stretching the dough and then boiled. They don’t use any pasta makers.
As for strange things food… I have seen some weird things. Skinned frogs, dried worms, dried duck, chickens are sold whole – head and feet and all. I think the strangest was when my husband accidentally ordered a chicken dish from Lamian and right at the top was the head. Being given a chicken head in your meal is a bit weird.
How do the eating habits of the Chinese people you’ve encountered differ from the eating habits of South Africans you know?
They eat with chopsticks. They eat rice and noodles with everything. They’ll have noodles and egg for breakfast. They slurp soup. They eat with open mouths and smacking noises. I am forever annoyed.
What foods from South Africa do you miss and what do you miss the least?
I miss bredies and beef ribs. I miss pumpkin, butternut and squash – I have not seen this here. I miss avos. They are hard to find and expensive when you do find them. I miss seafood. I try to avoid buying fish because they don’t treat the fish very nicely. My husband saw the tail of a fish being chopped off while it was still wiggling and gasping for air.
Have you cooked any South African dishes for your friends over there? What has been the most popular one?
I made a few curries. They loved it. My colleagues sometimes stare very enviously at the leftovers I take for lunch.