Jun 172009

If you are a South African, you definitely know the answer to that question. So you probably don’t need to read this. If, as a South African citizen, you don’t know what a braai is, you should not have been given that citizenship in the first place. However, for those of you that don’t know what a braai is, here is Wikipedia’s description of it:

“The word braaivleis is Afrikaans for “roasted meat.”

The word braai (pronounced “bry”, rhyming with the word “cry”; plural braais) is Afrikaans for “barbecue” or “roast” and is a social custom in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It originated with the Afrikaner people, but has since been adopted by South Africans of many ethnic backgrounds. The word vleis is Afrikaans for “meat”.

The word has been adopted by English-speaking South Africans and can be regarded as another word for barbecue, in that it serves as a verb when describing how food is cooked and a noun when describing the cooking equipment, such as a grill. The traditions around a braai can be considerably different from a barbecue, however, even if the method of food preparation is very similar.

While wood formerly was the most widely-used braai fuel, in modern times the use of charcoal has increased due to its convenience, as with barbecues elsewhere in the world. There has however been a renewed interest in the use of wood after the South African government started with its invasive plant species removal program. An important distinction between a braai and a barbecue is that it’s fairly uncommon for a braai to use gas rather than an open flame.

The “Bring & Braai”

Similar to a potluck party, this is a grand social event (but still casual and laid-back) where family and friends converge on a picnic spot or someone’s home (normally the garden or verandah) with their own meat, salad, or side dish in hand. Meats are the star of the South African braai. They typically include boerewors, sosaties, kebabs, marinated chicken, pork and lamb chops, steaks, sausages of different flavors and thickness, and possibly even a rack or two of spareribs. Fish and crayfish (kreef in Afrikaans) are also popular in coastal areas.

The other main part of the meal is pap (pronounced /p?p/, meaning porridge), or the krummelpap (“crumb porridge”), traditionally eaten with the meat. This dish is a staple of local African communities and may be eaten with tomato and onion sauce,monkeygland sauce or the more spicy chakalaka at a braai.

Sometimes this activity is also known as a “chop ‘n dop” (dop being Afrikaans slang for an alcoholic drink, literally meaning “cap” or “bottle top”) when more drinking than eating is done.

Social Norms

A braai is a social occasion that has specific traditions and social norms. In black and white South African culture, women rarely braai (cook) meat at a social gathering, as this is normally the preserve of men. The men gather round the braai or braaistand (the fire or grill) outdoors and cook the food, while women prepare the pap, salads, desserts, and vegetables for the meal in the kitchen. The meal is subsequently eaten outside by the fire/braai, since the activity is normally engaged in during the long summer months. The braaing (cooking) of the meat is not the prerogative of all the men attending, as one person would normally be in charge. He will attend to the fire, check that the coals are ready, and braai (cook) the meat. Other men may assist but generally only partake in fireside conversation. The person in charge is known as the braaier (chef), and if his skills are recognised, could be called upon to attend to the braai (BBQ) at other occasions as well.”

If you have a different oppinion about what a braai really is, please leave your comments.

 Posted by at 15:50

  20 Responses to “What is a braai?”

  1. The best wood to braai with must be Sekelbos. Botanical name: Landroviaflattyria. Beware, when you buy en route Leeupoort/Thabazimbi ex Warmbad, they sell you any kind of wood, but they will convince you that it is indeed
    sekelbos. Try for the braai en you will see that sekelbos koning kraai!! Laat waai!

  2. [...] braai.co.za Posted in Traditie, wijn en voedsel, [...]

  3. [...] listening to Buena Vista Social Club on the patio as the stars come out and starting the fire for a braai (South African style BBQ. A BIG part of culture here, I’ve been part of well-over ten braais [...]

  4. [...] and keeping them all charged and safe. I use my iPod in the car and for the Shox pig when we have a braai with friends but other than that it pretty much stays in the car or at [...]

  5. [...] you want to know a little more about braais, click here. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like [...]

  6. [...] had a true South African dinner – braai. AMAZING! Lamb chops, steak, bacon wrapped around mielies, roast potatoes, roast vegetables, potato [...]

  7. I did a paper for college on grilling-the SA braai is definitely the way to go! I’m in the USA, btw.

  8. [...] perennial administrative tasks, sorting out our respective work projects, and having coffee/dinner (braais) with new friends, and by the time the sun sets it feels like we were carried through the day by a [...]

  9. Have just completed a recent cricket tour representing the Austalian Over 60′s Cricket Team playing games from Durban to Cape Town and couldn’t believe how many Braais we had for the after game dinners.

    I thought we liked our BBQs(Braais) in Australia but the South Africans have us covered.

    Really enjoyed the tour and the hospitality we received from our opposition was second to none !

  10. […] a little bit of background for those who have never heard of a braai. The word braai comes from the word braaivleis, which is Afrikaans for roasted meat. Braai means […]

  11. […] booked might not live up to its online image, the Southeaster might interfere with your ability to braai, and the local wildlife might not keep its distance quite as much as you would prefer! Treat it as […]

  12. In my opinion, it is the best site to make money.

  13. […] volley ball, Robben Island trips, Braai’s, Outdoor markets are just a few to mention the fun summer things to do whilst studying at EC Cape […]

  14. […] marinated lamb to boerewors, a spicy sausage stuffed with both beef and pork, but it also includes every side dish you and your neighbors can dream […]

  15. […] … and everything in between. But we had a fantastic kitchenette style room, with our very own braai, South African […]

  16. I am a US citizen and had my first braai in SA a few months ago. Unlike hamburgers and hot dogs in the US, we had steak, ribs and lamb chops! Yum!!

  17. […] fishing in the boat. The sun was setting, the beer was cold and the aroma of meat cooking on the braai was […]

  18. A braai is much more than cooking food; it is about the atmosphere, the experience and the people that you share it with. …and the taste; oh man the taste!!

    You can braai just about anything. What you braai, mostly depends on your budget. Prime cuts, like thick cut T-bone steaks and lamb chops are especially good. If you are on a low budget, you can even braai cheaper cuts of meat like beef chuck. Chicken “flatties” are also very nice to braai. Chicken is also not as costly as lamb and prime cuts of beef.

    One of my personal favourites; to braai a fresh whole fish over the coals. Kabeljou (Cob) is especially good. To wrap the fish in tinfoil is definitely not the way to go. You must have the patience and skill (and balls) to braai fish on the open coals, skin side down, without burning the meat… What is the point if you are going to wrap the fish in tinfoil? You could just as well cook it in the oven!

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