Cape Malay Interactive Cooking Class

Cape Malay cooking is regarded as the closest thing to local traditional South African Cuisine that we have. The Cape Malay food is unique to the Cape Town area and consists of a fusion of Asian, Malaysian, African and European traditional ingredients. The Bo-Kaap district is where the Cape Malay people historically lived and it’s where you will find the most authentic Malay food.

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The Cape Malay influence can be traced back to South Africa’s early days, when the Dutch East India Company needed a provisions station to supply ships bound for Malaysia.  Jan van Riebeeck landed in the Cape in 1652 and established a farm to provide fresh vegetables and meat for ships rounding the Cape. Labourers were needed for the enterprise so the Dutch ships fetched slaves from Sumatra, who later became known as Cape Malays.

They brought with them their unique culture, traditions, recipes and spices, such as garlic, ginger, chilli, star anise, barishap (fennel), jeera (cumin), koljander (coriander seed), bay leaf, cardamom, cloves, dhania (coriander leaf), mustard seed, allspice, mint, fenugreek, saffron, nutmeg and tamarind.

In general, the Cape Malay exiles adhered to Islam, while the European settlers were Christian. This not only meant very different beliefs and customs, but also a completely different set of cooking techniques. In most cases, the modern Cape Malays adhere to their traditional Islam roots.  The Malay people established and maintained extremely close bonds with one another, clinging to their unique culture and belief system. The Bo-Kaap is still known as the heart of the Cape Malay people.


The flavours are well-known to locals, and remain a major part of the South African food culture. Due to its unique quality, Cape Malay cooking has become an important part of the South African identity, as well as of the tourist experience, who are always keen to learn more about this in cooking classes.

Here at Ginger & Lime Food Studio, we will take you on a journey to explore the flavours and unique spice blends in a interactive Cape Malay cooking course.  You will have great fun, as well as learn great new tips.  It’s said that the secret to the distinctive flavour ofCape Malay cuisine is a careful blend of spices – the most important of which is turmeric – incorporated into an array of tasty traditional dishes.
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Some examples of Cape Malay cuisine that have survived to tempt palates to today include smoorsnoek– snoek cooked over a fire or simmered with onions and tomatoes; oumens onder die kombers (old person under the blanket) – meat patties wrapped in cabbage leaves; denningvleis – slow-cooked leg of lamb with chillies, spices and vinegar; and bobotie – meatloaf with onion, sultanas, almonds, bay leaves and spices, topped with egg custard.

The Cape Malay cuisine is characterised by aromatic, strong flavours with complex lists of ingredients. There are some Asian elements that are easier to identify in traditional Cape Malay dishes, but there are also plenty of African and European nuances too. Popular Cape Malay dishes include plenty of fish (having lived off the produce of the sea on their doorstep since their arrival), as well as stews, roasts and spicy curries. The aromatic nature of their dishes is due to the cinnamon, saffron, tamarind, and fruit that they like to add, not forgetting plenty of chillies.
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They are also famous for their homemade chutneys and atchar. Many of their seafood dishes are salted (such as snoek served with apricot jam), curried or pickled. This hails back to the days in which they did not have refrigerators, being forced to preserve the dishes in some other way.
Breads are also important in the Cape Malay cuisine. Rotis are flatbreads that are used to hold and mop up saucy curries, for example. Curries are served with sambals that help to make the fiery burn less painful for children or those that prefer slightly milder foods. These include sweet chutneys, tomato and onion, and plain yoghurt.
If all this talk of spicy food has left your taste buds tingling, you can come and join us at Ginger & Lime Food Studio to learn some of the traditional Cape Malay cooking secrets, at a hands on interactive food experience.

Please also note that Cape Malay dishes will always be based on each family’s personal taste preference and the selection of fresh produce availability. Food is an international language, spoken world wide and one is never too old or too young to learn and to understand this. It should always be respected, for it’s not just a recipe that’s been passed on from generation to generation … but a story … a story of family, love and survival.

See our website for news on the upcoming courses, or book your own private Cape Malay Cooking Course with us.
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