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What to know about the South African practice “bring en braai”

By February 24, 2023October 11th, 2023Newsletter

What to know about the South African practice “bring en braai”

February 24, 2023


Aah, a lekker bring en braai, what could be better after a long week in the office? Of course, as a local Saffa, you know exactly what we are talking about, but for those new to our part of the sticks, aka tourists, you might be a little confused. So let’s clear things up by providing a little braai education. After all, you will need to abide by South African braai etiquette if you want to live to tell the tale about how you once visited the wild plains of Southern Africa! 

What is a braai? 

Firstly, a braai is not a BBQ and making this mistake is not one easily forgiven by pukka Saffas in charge of the braai tongs! Instead, one of the key differences between the lekker braai and the tepid BBQ is that traditional braais use kameeldoring (camel thorn) wood instead of gas or coal. This wood burns with a low flame and exudes an aromatic smell which adds flavour to the meat while cooking.

However, cooking materials aside, a braai is much more than cooking meat over an open fire. Instead, it’s a social event where friends and family gather to celebrate or relax, depending on the occasion. And by occasion, we mean anything from weddings to birthdays, weekend get-togethers and even cheeky midweek dinners.

If you’re wondering what the term braai means, it’s an Afrikaans word derived from the Dutch word for roast, ‘gebraden. 

Bring and braai: The who, what, and where

Of course, as South Africans, we like to add variety to everything, so there are several types of braai you might be invited to attend, with the most common being the bring en braai (bring and roast). For this braai, you are expected to bring your own meat, salads (copious amounts), braaibroodjies and drinks, as the host will only provide the fire and the braai tongs.

Many stories surround the origins of the bring en braai, and figuring out exactly when and how it all started would be a waste of lekker braai time! Instead, we like to think that, like our forefathers in the early days when gathering around the evening campfire, they brought the food they had hunted and prepared, cooked it over the fire and shared it with family and friends.

Braai etiquette

Yes, braai etiquette or rather South African braai etiquette, is an actual thing. In fact, like the ten commandments, it’s something every braai-loving Saffa has lived by since the dawn of time!

  • The braai master (host) cooks the meat. Tip, he’s the guy wielding the meat tongs!
  • The braai master decides when the coals are at the optimum temperature for cooking.
  • No person shall turn the meat on the braai grid unless the braai master agrees.
  • Backseat braai-ing is not acceptable; he who holds the tongs knows best.
  • Guests provide their own meat and drinks when attending a dop en tjop (beverage and meat) braai.
  • The braai master is exempt from washing up.
  • Guests should expect the braai to last several hours or more.

Of course, these braai commandments are subject to change at a moment’s notice. See braai-commandment number 4.



What to bring when invited to a braai

Most South Africans know what to bring when invited to a braai, but for those who don’t, calm down to minor panic; it’s not that challenging! Firstly, check with your host if you are required to bring your own meat and side salads. Usually, it’s pretty standard to bring along at least one side salad, bread rolls or garlic bread and your own drinks.

Stellar bring and braai ideas

Once you have confirmed what you need to bring along, you might want to try one of the bring and braai ideas we’ve found for you below. 

Parmesan and coriander knoffel brood (garlic bread)

What you need

  • 1 large baguette
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 100 g salted butter softened
  • 30 g parmesan cheese
  • Fresh coriander leaves chopped (about a handful)

What to do

  • Combine the garlic, butter, coriander and parmesan cheese to create a creamy, buttery spread.
  • Next, score the baguette into fairly thick portions stopping just short of slicing all the way through it. You want each piece to remain connected, almost like a concertina!
  • Next, spread the softened butter between each slice and sprinkle some extra parmesan cheese on top.
  • Then wrap the baguette in foil and pop it into your braai bag ready for the braai master to roast on the coals. Cold garlic bread isn’t a great bring and braai option!

Bacon wrapped mushrooms

These mushrooms are a nice light snack before the braai festivities begin. Just remember to pass the braai master an extra beer for his trouble.

What you need

  • Barbeque sauce
  • 24 large button mushrooms
  • 24 slices streaky bacon
  • 24 toothpicks (soaked)

What to do

  • Wrap each mushroom in a slice of streaky bacon and use the toothpick to secure it.
  • Then dip each mushroom into the barbeque sauce and place it on the braai grid to cook. Remember to keep turning the mushrooms until the bacon is crisp.
  • Serve as a starter or a tasty side dish; the choice is yours or, rather, the braai masters’!

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