Desserts here in South Africa are often sweeter than you will find in the East or Northern parts of Africa. There, fruit is often served as a dessert and also to cleanse one’s palate after a meal. Yet in the Southern parts, we have more European influences and so the dishes become sweeter and tastier.
A definite must-try if you are ever traveling to South Africa is ‘Koeksisters,’ pronounced 'cook-sister.' Visiting our local markets, you will often find Koeksisters for sale. They look weird, as they are braided like a long piece of hair. The name is derived from the Dutch ‘koek’ meaning cake. You will find this sweet bread pastry in most shops, cafes or restaurants and it remains a traditional dessert. It is more like a large twirled deep-fried biscuit; but whatever it is, it is very tasty indeed.
Not for the dieters, the dish has a Cape Malay origin, or the Western part of South Africa. The Cape Malay originated from the former slaves brought from Indonesia by the Dutch and now this community creates a proud culture and heritage for South Africa. Along with the Indian slaves back in the day, they brought the influences of the spicy dishes to our tables. They were also the first to bring Islam into South Africa.
Yet over time, the Afrikaaner community in South Africa also made their version of Koeksisters. The Cape Malay version is less sweet, not braided and sprinkled with coconut, whereas the Afrikaans dessert is braided and sweetened with a syrupy layer.
I have loved this braided, coconut sprinkled sweet and even though it is mighty sticky on the fingers, it is worth every penny.