When I hear the name ‘Bobotie’ I think of monkeys. I think it has a similarity to the word Baboon, which we have many of here in Cape Town. Yet, it has absolutely nothing to do with monkeys, apart from the fact that they may eat this particular dish if they would find it.
The first time I heard about Bobotie was while I was working as a chef at the Winchester Mansions Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. It was a common staff meal. Being the new person in the kitchen, staff meal duties were pinned on me for the first couple of months, and so I learned how to make Bobotie. Coming from Switzerland, it did seem somewhat of a strange mixture, but soon I got used to it. The dish is very simple and quick to make.
It is a popular dish on South African menus and remains one of the dishes that is so important to the cuisine of the country. It consists of spicy mincemeat that is topped with a milky egg mixture and raisins. At times, you will also find other fruit in the meaty mixture, such as bananas and sultanas. When eating it, Bobotie has a taste of scrambled curry eggs, with mincemeat. The curry carries a strong distinct flavor and mixed with the dried fruit, the accent flavor is sweet and spicy.
Everyone has different recipes for this dish and so the ingredients and spices will vary.
This dish is said to be derived from the Dutch colonies centuries ago, when it came through South Africa from Indonesia, along with spices. The name originates from the Indonesian ‘Bobotok’, which is also a meat dish, topped with a curried egg mixture.
Originally Bobotie was made with mutton or pork, yet nowadays it often includes beef or lamb. It is distinct in its taste and often eaten with yellow rice. Bobotie is definitely not to everyone’s liking and does take a little getting used to, but in South Africa, its a core favorite.