Boerewors is popular from the tshisa nyama shop to the agricultural fair; the boerie, as it is colloquially known, is our autochthonous fast food.
From Nairobi to New York, wherever South Africans have gone boerewors has followed. It has even made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary.
We know it’s meant to be one of our national trademarks; the television programme MasterChef South Africa devoted episode 14 to the wors; we hold the Guinness World Record for braaing the longest boerewors (it was 514.5m); we talk of the boerewors curtain and boerewors westerns, and there is no end to its use for sexual innuendo. But what makes it boerewors; when does sausage become boerewors?
According to C Louis Leipoldt, writing in 1942, the closest relative to our boerewors could be found south of the Ardour River in France, where the sausage is made with goat’s meat, flavoured with spices, and improved with sweet Jurançon wine. Crucially, it contains cubes of pork (about 7mm in dimension) that allow it to be grilled over the coals without drying out.
Clearly, boerewors has had its ups and downs. At one stage, butcheries were killing boerewors with garlic and MSG, and selling peri-peri boerewors, cheese boerewors, and all kinds of corruptions.
But boerewors seems to have recovered and become a source of pride, even in supermarkets. Rather bizarrely, late in 2012, Checkers had its Championship Boerewors branded by British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
Now boerewors has gone gourmet. Just in time for the summer season, a new restaurant, Gourmet Boerie, opened its doors.
Located on a busy corner across the road from McDonald’s, it is a casual, airy place, redolent of the braai yard, with long bleached wooden tables, floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open on to the street, and long facebrick counters, perhaps anticipating queues for takeaways and boerewors braaipacks.
In the first weeks of business, one ordered at the counter, but now there are waiters. Locals have responded well, and young and old from all walks of life mix here.
The menu is simple. You choose your boerewors type — traditional, lamb, chicken, beef or ostrich; your bread roll variety — white, whole-grain or 70% rye; and a style. Best-sellers are the Mexicano boerie (tomato salsa, sour cream, guacamole, jalapeño chilli) and the Hang-over (bacon, caramelised pineapple, avocado, cheese sauce). There are boeries with chakalaka, mushroom sauce, gorgonzola, even tzatziki.
I tried the Pure Sophistication with sweet caramelised onions, creamy goat’s cheese, roast cherry tomatoes, basil pesto and good-quality rocket. Boeries are served wrapped in paper on a wooden paddle; all come with shoestring chips. It’s rather odd not to have the alluring smell of grilling wors wafting about one as with the boerewors-roll street vendors. Backstage, here the wors is first steamed, then put on a medium-high grill. Mine was beautifully juicy, but with only the tiniest seam of singeing.
And with boerewors goes beer; on tap are craft beers: Darling Slow, Devil’s Peak and Jack Black.
It is early days for Gourmet Boerie and the concept has unexpected potential.
Gourmet Boerie, Shop No 5, Buitenkloof Studios, 8 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town Tel: 021 424 4208
Full story in the Mail & Guardian: Boerie goes gourmet | Arts and Culture | Food | Mail & Guardian.