Bobotie, pronounce bow-booa-tea, is a uniquely South African culinary experience of spiced minced meat with a savoury egg custard topping (say what?). Bobotie is especially favoured in the Cape, and it’s DNA can be traced the Indonesian dish Bobotok, which is sometimes made with bee larvae (and you thought South Africans were strange).
The theory goes that colonists from the Dutch East India Company probably brought it to the Cape, where it was adopted by the Cape Malay. The Cape Malay, not keen on the bland Dutch version, threw in whatever spices they could lay their hands on and served it with a spicy sambal.
Back in the day, and by the day we mean the 17th century, bobotie was most likely made with a mixture of mutton and pork (probably because sheep and pigs were easier to bring over by ship than cows). Modern cooks can use any minced meat (lamb, beef, or pork) though beef is most popular. Hipsters can use ostrich. There’s even a veggie version made with lentils. Back in the day, the meat was flavoured with ginger, marjoram and lemon rind. Nowadays, we chuck in curry powder and add sultanas and raisins for sweetness.
South Africans have much to thank the Cape Malay for. Not least of which is the unique fusion of sweet, savoury , curry and custard that we fondly call bobotie.
Factoid: The first bobotie recipe ever published appeared in 1609 in a Dutch cookbook. #SouthAfricanCulture