Bobotie is at it again in Mzansi, this time causing an uproar on Twitter over its status as the country’s “national dish”. “What even is that?” one netizen (or citizen) remarked, after a recent screenshot from the Taste Atlas made the rounds on South African Twitter on Sunday.
The dish with Cape roots is just one of those South African meals that you will either love, or love to hate. It is typically made with a concoction of sweet, fruity and spiced mince baked with a rich custardy egg topping.
This is not the first time bobotie’s claim as Mzansi’s national dish has been up for debate, says South African food commentator and cookbook author Errieda du Toit.
Like so many of our national dishes can be unifiers, the origin story of bobotie might be linked to one culture but it’s there to be enjoyed, shared and respected by all.
“We cannot in this country have a definitive one national dish, it is impossible,” Du Toit says.
“We have a buffet of national dishes, [in fact] we have a table of national dishes. We don’t have a potjie and say that is our national dish. We can romanticise the idea, but we have 11 official languages – how can we have just one dish?”
Meanwhile tweeps took to the app on Sunday debating bobotie’s unofficial claim, and they are still at it.
What the hell is that thing??? What is Bobotie now?— #Ty🇿🇦 (@ZTM_Lastmonth) March 12, 2022
Who eats such a thing? pic.twitter.com/AObflZKWzi— Bashene (@BasheneA) March 14, 2022
One of many national dishes
Whether it is truly Mzansi’s national dish is up for debate, even on Team Food For Mzansi.
“I don’t understand people’s revulsion towards bobotie. Personally, I love it! Although, I will admit that it is not one of those dishes you can eat from just anyone,” says Food For Mzansi journalist Nicole Ludolph, who came to the defence of the Cape’s golden child.
Meanwhile memories of eating bobotie do not exactly spark positive experiences for Food For Afrika news lead, Lucinda Dordley. “While it is something I used to enjoy, I now associate bobotie with the taste of death. The dish, along with the cheap-to-make breyani, was often served at funerals I’ve attended growing up. “
“The last time I had bobotie was at my paternal grandmother’s funeral in 2019, and I haven’t touched the dish since.”Lucinda Dordley, Head of News at Food For Afrika.com
Meanwhile Du Toit explains, “Bobotie definitely represents [different] cultures; it is a special dish and it is something that should be called traditional but it is not for everyone.”
South African cook Surita Riffel agrees, and says that there is no denying that bobotie is a truly South African dish that cannot be found anywhere else.
“It would be a great idea if we made bobotie one of the standout dishes of South Africa, alongside others like pap and wors. We must not forget that we are a melting pot of cultures in this country. We have to give praise to all the contributions of food.”
The news of Mzansi’s niggling doubts over bobotie as its national dish is not a new debate, notes Du Toit.
It takes skills and finesse to make the perfect bobotie, says Meagan van der Vent, Food For Mzansi’s audio and video producer. “Finding the right bobotie recipe to accommodate one’s family can take many failed attempts.
“The one family member loves raisins and the other one not – even if it’s too eggy, we have a problem. I would not say bobotie is [a] firm favourite in Mzansi or worthy of being awarded SA’s national dish. Maybe a vetkoek, boerewors or melktert are better candidates,” Meagan says.
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