Twenty-two years old and travelled the globe, I’ve experienced the art, culture and culinary talent from over 30 countries. They say the best education you can ever receive is travel, and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve had countless History lessons from the Second Indochina War to experiencing real-life Nazi Camps – thing’s you can hardly experience at school. I’ve experienced traditional Absinthe, enjoyed by several famous artists such as Salvador Dali, and watched French pâtissiers baking bread at 5am in Paris. I’ve seen Mona Lisa and infamous art and museums that have influenced my love and passion for creativity and design.
As lucky as I have been to experience all of these wonderful things, I have to admit our Rainbow Nation brings a(whole)nother level to my global experiences and at times, even brings the world to my doorstep.
I guarantee as a South African you will never experience your current quality of life oversees. We are abundant and blessed with the ability to wine and dine weekly, go out for after-work drinks, and experience the ocean, wildlife, renowned sunsets, beach, garden route, mountains, and even snow within one country.
Eating out overseas is expensive, even if it’s fast food (I once paid R97 for a single cheese burger from Burger King in Thailand) and often only enjoyed as a celebration. Our cuisine is affordable and brings global infusion to your pallet for half the price, if not less.
Mumbai is said to be the “New York” of India. It’s bustling with life, traffic, vendors, and litter. With the world’s third biggest slum, Dharavi, this beautiful city ‘hits home’ as poverty is rife, yet happiness if copious. Experiencing the depths of this slum brought me home to South Africa in more ways than one. Alike Dharavi, Soweto consists of a community of extremes – abject poverty and extraordinary wealth in upper class suburbs such as Diepkloof Extension.
Eating out in India offers a variety of hygiene problems, ‘Dehli belly’, and an explosion of flavours and spices. With a large Indian community situated in South Africa, our restaurants offer identical quality at a similar price, if not cheaper. One of my family’s favourite restaurants, Ghazal (Sunninghill or Randburg), offers some of the best Tandoori, Korma and Naan I have yet to taste.
South Korea, Thailand, China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Hong Kong consist of some of my favourite countries ever experienced.
This continent is known for their hospitality and hard-working inhabitants. The level of service experienced in this region is phenomenal – South Africa doesn’t come close. However, there are a few hidden gems that are comparable to the Asian culinary market.
China brings forth an elegant art in dumpling creation – from steaming, to frying, to grilling – I’ve never quite experienced this at home. The art in this is due to the culinary skill of the dough and ofcourse, the lavish filling. My family’s love for dumplings originated in a small, family run restaurant called Mr Shi’s in Beijing. Finding a similar experience in South Africa has proved challenging, however, if you have the budget Koi (Menlyn or Rosebank) will not disappoint.
If you’re looking for fine dining and prestigious Peking duck I would also suggest going to Red Chamber (Hyde Park). One thing you definitely won’t be able to find on the streets of suburban Joburg is skewered tarantula and scorpions (thank goodness).
Sampling sushi in Japan is not an easy task. The sushi South African’s have grown to love is far from traditional Japanese sushi – presenting total pallet confusion. It’s rumoured that our culinary expectation of this Japanese food originates from Canada. A few family sushi favourites include Love Fish (Morningside) and Wasabi (Mall of Africa) – if you’re looking for contemporary Japanese cuisine.
I went to Italy and France, among a few other European countries, on an art tour a few years ago. While these two countries are full of unforgettable architecture, history and art, their cuisine still lingers on my pallet.
If you’re looking for the best pasta in Joburg I can suggest no other than GemelliCucina Bar (Bryanston). This firm favourite introduces modern, innovative cooking styles and techniques coupled with classically definitive flavour. As for fine French cuisine, PatachouPattisserie (Rivonia) and The Patisserie (Illovo) offer an intimately designed space to enjoy pastries, cakes and confectionary delights.
The Rainbow Nation
South Africa, our home, boasts a variety of different ethnic groups, languages and religions in a multiracial and multicultural society. If you have a Sunday open, pop into Maboneng Precinct to enjoy a collaborative hub of culture and lifestyle that entices curiosity, encourages exploration and promotes a sense of community. After all, there’s no place like home.