Taming the beast: My take on a dish from Belly of the Beast

By Mokgadi Itsweng, 17 June 2024

While eating her way around SA for the Eat Out Woolworths Restaurant Awards, Mokgadi Itsweng was so impressed by a dish from Belly of the Beast that it inspired her to recreate her own version

As a plant-based diner, my first visit to Belly of the Beast in Cape Town was one for the books. The name alone conjured images of a real butcher’s delight, and I expected a dark, moody space with animal heads and horns adorning the walls.
I knew that my two lunch companions, both big meat-eaters, were super-excited to get acquainted with “the beast”. But I was a little more hesitant. I made sure to call ahead to double-check that I had made my vegetarian diet and allergies clear, and felt reassured when the staff member on the other end of the line seemed completely unperturbed by my dietary requirements.

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To my pleasant surprise, the interior of the restaurant was not as I’d imagined, and I was immediately captivated by the open- fire kitchen and its tattooed chefs. This get- together with my sisters promised to be an afternoon filled with good food, good wine, laughter and joy. I’m happy to say that the six-course tasting menu with wine pairing was filled with some of the most interesting vegetable morsels I’ve ever had. The Cape Malay influence was evident in how the chef had played with spices, pickles and flavour combinations, making each dish a delicious exploration. The wine server also took us on a journey of discovering local, handmade and unfiltered wines, which worked perfectly with the flavourful dishes.

Fried cabbage with tomato curry

Find Mokgadi's fried cabbage with tomato curry recipe here. 

From the delicious roosterkoek bread course to the risotto and the coconut koeksister dessert, every dish was perfectly executed, but my absolute highlight was the fried cabbage. The humble veg, encased in a light, crispy batter, was served with a sweet-and-sour tomato curry sauce, basmati rice foam, tomato-and-onion salsa, and topped with crispy onions and curry leaves. I’d never eaten cabbage like that before. It was so incredibly good that I dreamed of it often, to the point where I simply had to try to replicate it.

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My version of the tomato curry sauce has tamarind in it and is based on my granny’s tamarind fish curry recipe (without the fish). I make a tempura-style batter for the cabbage, which lightly coats it and keeps it moist and soft inside the crispy coating. The crispy cabbage works well with the curry sauce and the creamy basmati rice foam, creating the perfect balance of flavour and texture. Crispy onions and sliced deep-fried curry leaves add extra flavour and crunch.

When I eat this dish, it reminds me of the love and respect the chefs at Belly of The Best have for their produce, which can be tasted in every bite on the menu. And I feel happy, inspired, and excited about the local food industry

Mokgadi Itsweng

Article by Mokgadi Itsweng

Former food editor of True Love magazine, Mokgadi has worked in the food industry for more than 17 years and is the author of Veggielicious – a collection of plant-forward recipes that’ll encourage even the pickiest eater to eat more veg. She is the Creative Director and head chef for Lotsha Home Foods and a member of The Chef’s Manifesto.
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