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The smell of steak and sausages sizzling on the braai grid over hot coals is a memory most South Africans cherish. The hustle and bustle of the family in the kitchen preparing the vegetable side dishes while the ‘braai-kings’ hold fort over the fire and watch the meat cooking – it’s the perfect weekend in any South Africans’ book! No braai is complete without having many braai side dishes from which to pick and choose. The textures, flavours, and colours that make traditional South African side dishes show that we are genuinely a rainbow nation. It’s reflected in our food, a mix of cultures and recipes passed down from generation to generation. 

Who remembers the age-old ‘bring and braai’? Family and friends bring their meat and braai sides to add to the shared feast. For all intents and purposes, this is the true sense of the traditional South African Braai. It’s a meal for sharing – sharing good food and good company.

Braai side dishes can be plain or wildly decadent depending on the mood or occasion you are celebrating. Let’s be honest; a braai is almost always a celebration of some form, even if it’s just a celebration of being together and socialising with like-minded people.

If you were looking at plain vegetable side dishes, say for a standard Saturday evening meal, you might prefer to have roasted vegetables. However, if you needed a little more oomph for your braai sides, why not try a biltong salad? 

We have put together a list of six South African braai sides that all can enjoy, whether you have a braai, a barbeque, or a cookout. You may be far from home, but you are never too far away to enjoy a taste of home.

6 South African braai sides all Saffas should try

Baked bean salad

This salad is one of many staple braai sides and often does not get the merit it deservesbecause of its simplicity. However, simple is often best when it comes to flavour. Use one or two cans of baked beans, depending on the number of people attending yourbraai. Add a generous dollop of mayonnaise and an equal amount of sour cream. Then chop up a large banana and add it to the mix. Stir. Now you have a sweet and tangy bean salad which will complement the smokey meat from the braai. You can make many variations of this salad; try adding a teaspoon of curry or chilli powder into the mix to give the salad a ‘bite’. 

Traditional salad slice with a hint of biltong

This salad is like a veggie ‘millionaire shortcake’ with a twist. Take one sliced avocado, place on a bed of sweet lettuce, add sliced cucumber, Olives, baby tomatoes and Feta cheese using as much or as little as you desire! Then sprinkle with biltong powder/dust. Drizzle with your preferred salad dressing and enjoy.

Hot curried potato side

Another favourite found in the braai side dishes’ hall of fame is the hot potato salad. Use six large potatoes, boiled and skinned. Chop roughly into a bowl and add a little salt. Mix half a cup of mayonnaise and half a cup of plain yoghurt. Add one and half teaspoons of mild curry powder and two tablespoons of Dijon mustard. An optional extra would be to add a quarter cup of finely chopped onion to give the salad that extra flavoursome zing.

Butternut on the braai

A list of side dishes without the butternut side dish is not a list at all! This easy recipe is one of the tastiest vegetable side dishes yet. Take one butternut and cut in half lengthways, do not remove the skin. Remove all the seeds. Place a pat of butter in the hollow rounded ends. Sprinkle salt and cinnamon over the two halves. Drizzle sunflower oil and honey over both pieces and wrap in tin foil. Place the butternut into the coals to slowly cook. Once cooked, the skin is so tender you can eat it without removing it!

Beetroot salad 

Better known as Beetslaai. Use fresh beetroot. Boil until tender. Peel the beets while they arestill warm and slice into rounds. Add two small onions diced. Add a quarter cup red wine vinegar, one tsp of salt, one tsp of sugar and stir. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes before serving.

Bacon and bean salad

A trusty favourite that will get everyone eating their greens, even grumpy gramps! Mix four cups of cooked green beans with a can of red kidney beans also cooked, washed and drained. Add one small diced onion. Place some bacon pieces into the oven and bake until crispy. Make a simple vinaigrette of dijon mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic and a dash of sugar, salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl for a truly fabulous salad

There’s more to braai sides than salad 

South African braai sides also include different bread types and a dish traditionally known as pap, a kind of maize made into a stiff porridge and eaten with the meat’s gravy. A braai would not be complete without the garlic bread or the traditional ‘Roosterkoek. Roosterkoek, pronounced ’roo -stir-cook’, are yeast dough rolls baked over the open fire. They originate from the indigenous Khoi people in the Cape who made bread centuries ago using open coals. This bread eaten with lashings of butter is the perfect side dish for any braai.

It does not matter what braai sides you choose to make and enjoy. There are so many variations to choose from that it’s down to personal choice. Do you prefer sweet and tangy flavours, or is your guilty pleasure more savoury and spicey? With so many options to choose from, there is no excuse to put up with bland braai sides ever again!

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