Cape Town is considered a food capital. Within a small radius in the CBD, you can easily find fine dining from all over the world: French, Spanish, Italian and American. But besides one or two locations catering largely to tourists, the search for a restaurant celebrating South African food comes up short. Until now…
Tucked away in Makers Landing, the new market-inspired food destination at the V&A Waterfront, is a tiny restaurant with big ambitions. It’s run by chef Mmabatho Molefe, who is clearing a new path by bringing Zulu favourites to fine dining. Its name, Emazulwini, means ‘the heavens’ in isiZulu, and its aim is to celebrate Nguni cuisine and South African ingredients.
Mmabatho grew up in KwaZulu-Natal with a Zulu mother and a Sotho father. The familiar food that’s part of her culture receives a twist before making it to the elegant plates on her inspired, multi-course tasting menu: vetkoek is made dainty; mealies are turned into custard, and sorghum is puffed. The names of all the dishes are written in isiZulu.
Mmabatho chose one of these dishes, Izingingila, to break down for us: deep-fried chicken gizzards, spiced amasi and tomato relish.
Chicken gizzards are part of the chicken’s digestive tract. Traditionally gizzards are slow-cooked with onions and minimal spices and lots of water. We still cook them that way, but now we also deep fry them. My own memory of eating them is as a stew with uphuthu. The reason we included them on the menu is because there is a lot of untapped potential when it comes to offal and we wanted to show that there are many ways to prepare and enjoy it. We slowly cook the gizzards with onions and garam masala for two hours, then reduce the cooking liquid by half to help intensify the flavour. Then we panko crumb them and deep fry.
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