I’m often asked about the first dish I learned to make, and it must be chakalaka. My mom makes the best. At every family braai it was an unspoken rule that the task of bringing the famous relish that ties the meal together would be left to her. Now that honour has been bestowed on me and my sister. No one seems to know the origins of this township favourite. Many say that chakalaka originated in the hostels where mine workers, with little to spare, would contribute whatever they had to make supper.
You bring your onion, I bring my carrots, someone else a cabbage, beans or curry and 30 minutes later a spicy chakalaka is served over piping-hot pap. People the length and breadth of our beautiful country have their own version. Even Oprah Winfrey has a chakalaka recipe in her cookbook! (Who knew?) The base recipe doesn’t vary a lot: ginger, garlic and curry provide the flavour, while vegetables (you can add almost anything) give it body.
Baked beans in tomato sauce finish it off. Serve it warm as a relish, cold as a side, crack open some eggs to make chakalaka shakshuka, add to a batter to make savoury muffins, scoop it up with pap or just eat it on toast. It’s easy on the pocket and packed with vegetables, so it’s the best way to sneak cabbage, spinach, carrots and peppers onto a plate! I also love that you can make big batches at a time and freeze it. And, like most curry-based dishes, it tastes even better the next day.
Chakalaka is such a distinctively South African flavour, there are now even Chakalaka flavoured products on shelves; Chalakala flavoured noodles, Chakalaka flavoured sauces and even Chakalaka flavoured snacks!
How do you know I’m a good person? Because here I am sharing my mom’s famous recipe with you. It really is that good! Trust me, after making it this way, you will never make it any other way.