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How BBQ brings South Africans together

Rebecca L. Weber | 4/17/2014, noon
Prep work takes time -- braai often feature drinks and snacks for two to three hours before the main dishes are served. Courtesy Stephen Coetzee

— Depending on region and culture, different meats predominate.

Sheep, goat and pork are popular in some cultures but not others.

Black South Africans will tell you that goat is preferable to lamb, says Bonello.

What's considered a choice cut differs as well: sheep's head and tail are delicacies to some, and repugnant to others.

"A Karoo farmer will eat a tail and testicle potjie, which you can't find in the city," says Bonello.

Potjiekos is a small pot of stew cooked over an open fire.

Ostrich farms along stretches of highway are about as common as cattle farms in Kansas.

Wild game such as springbok, kudu, eland and warthog are favored specialties more likely to be eaten by hunters than city dwellers.

Zebra is less often seen or eaten.

"The taste is amazing," says Bonello. "It has a low fat content, and it's completely organic."

Seafood is popular in coastal areas.

Snoek is a cheap, popular source of protein in and around Cape Town.

Restaurant braais

Restaurant-style braais are most popular in townships, places for those who have little chance to attend an authentic braai.

Mzoli's, a butcher/braai restaurant in Gugulethu, one of Cape Town's largest townships, is phenomenally popular with local township residents as well as overseas tourists.

On Sunday mornings, the line at Mzoli's starts at 9 a.m.

People head into the butcher section to place their order -- usually a mixed platter of meat, such as chops, pork and boerewors, perhaps with some pap (a stiff cornmeal mash) on the side -- then pass through a narrow corridor to drop off their pile of meat in the kitchen.

Mzoli's kitchen looks like something out of the belly of an ancient castle, with staff stoking several enormous fireplaces.

Outside, in a covered area with live drummers and a cool misting spray, long picnic tables sit end-to-end, packed with what may be the most diverse crowd in Cape Town.

Two-liter bottles of Twist lemon drink, potato chips and hooka pipes keep several hundred people occupied while they wait for their food.

Mzoli's seasonings recipe, the secrets of which owner Mzoli Ncgawuzele won't divulge, is a spicy marinade that sits well with palates from different communities.

Mzoli's also makes its own beef boerewors on site.

Where to go for braai in South Africa

If you're pressed for time, don't go to a braai.

Waiting for the food is part of the experience.

Many people say that the best place to braai is their own backyard.

As a visitor to South Africa, accepting an invitation to a braai is one of the best ways to experience a laid-back meal.

Mzoli's Place, 150 NY111, Gugulethu, Cape Town; by far the most popular place of its type in Cape Town, Mzoli's is located in a township but has a regular influx of foreign visitors. About $5 per person.

Blue Lagoon, 130 Lower Marine Parade, Durban; known by locals as "Lugs," this DIY destination is especially popular with the local Indian community for braaiing and partying.

Die Strandloper, Off Club Mykonos Road, Langebaan; seafood braai on a West Coast beach, north of Cape Town. About $25 per person.

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