[*hello, grandpa! in zulu speak]

everyone loves a good old barbecue. in malaysia, it’s a pretty common alternative to making steamboats/have caterers (cop out!) for a party at home as it’s pretty easy. and i’m sure you lot out there who’s been to australia or the ‘states have experienced the way they grill their meat over a fire! i’ve never been to australia or the ‘states. in fact over here in britain, only occasionally i’d get some prawns, skate wings, chicken and lamb chops over a small £6.99 woolworths b-b-q set with a few friends. only in the summer. if it doesn’t rain.

Jason with the braailast saturday, i was over at jason and kate’s for a braai. as a malaysian, i’ve pretty much had the braai experience a couple of times now. braai is afrikaans for barbecue. the braai is simply an institution for south africans. wherever they are in the world, whatever the outdoor temperature is, you just need two of them around and the next thing you know, they’ll be lighting up a fire and getting ready to grill some succulent boerewors!

the braai experience is simply different. most barbecues i’ve been to are mainly getting the charcoal lit, get a fire going, bung in some chicken, and the next thing you know, blood comes dripping down your chin and you’d go, “this could do with a couple more minutes”.

Kate with some of the guestsone takes their time preparing for a braai. while the fire is being prepared, guests would usually enjoy basking in the evening sun, having pleasant conversations over a glass of fine red. i noticed my british friends were busily helping themselves to the doritos and dips, probably not expecting the laidback nature of the evening! the evening’s non-vegetarian fare consisted of ribs, sausages, chicken (it was considerate of them to have provided me with the halal version!) and lamb chops. it was also publicly announced that the marinade of the chicken was based on my recipe, much to my embarassment (it was a half-baked attempt for a soya sauce-based marinade, ie ayam kicap, made a few years ago at my first braai. apparently, this recipe was highly praised and had even been used by my friend’s mom in jo’berg, entertaining their guests by the poolside) as the wife of one of the guests was keen to know how to make it.

one thing i can say is that you can get a full 3-to-4 course meal out of a single braai sesh. i experienced this first-hand at my first braai at another south african friend’s home in sheffield. and this was late autumn! after getting the fire right, you can have starters the likes of shiitake mushrooms glazed in garlic, herb and butter. i’ve also had cheese, tomato and onion toasties over the fire! obviously, grill meat like chicken first as they take a longer time to cook. steak is simply gorgeous. with no salt or pepper (to prevent osmosis of the meat’s juices), grill the (unmarinated) steak for about 5 minutes on each side if you like it medium. season thereafter. serve with a steak sauce of your liking.

as the fires die down, throw in a couple of bananas in the glowing embers. let the skin burn to a black colour. remove the skin, and trickle some vanilla/cardamom syrup (if it’s your cup of tea, a tinge of brandy should also add some zing) over the steaming bananas. dessert’s ready. by the end of that evening, all three of us sat down quietly with our freshly brewed coffee – too full to even speak!

i’m glad that i’ve learnt how to do a barbecue the suid afrikan way, and that is the way i have been doing it ever since that cold autumn’s evening. chilled and laid back.