The perfect sosatie

In my childhood home in Pretoria a regular Saturday lunchtime dish was sosaties and salad. Our family retainer had a wonderful way with sosaties, which she braised on the stove in a large lidded pot with just a little water at the bottom. This enabled all the lovely, pungent spices and vinegar to penetrate the meat chunks, fruit and pieces of fat which made up the rest of the sosatie, without the outside becoming a dry, black, charred mess as so often happens on a braai.
And without taking away at all from our domestic worker’s skill in the kitchen, I should add that the butcher who prepared them knew that they needed to be properly marinated before offering them to customers.
They were, in a word, ambrosial.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, I have spent the half century or so since leaving home searching for a sosatie to equal those I left behind as a child. I have tried hard, and failed at each attempt. Either they’re not adequately marinated, or the meat is tough and gristly, or the marinade is too sweet or they are burnt.
Now as you will read elsewhere in this edition, the Smallholder (aka me) spent a day last month visiting the Nampo Harvest Day show outside Bothaville in the Free State.
And as you will know if you’ve “been to Nampo”, apart from the smell of goat near the goat pens, or the odd whiff of fresh cow poo in the cattle hall (quickly whisked away by ever-attentive grooms) or the smell of diesel fumes in the tractor museum, the all-pervading aroma which wafts hither and thither in the air above the showgrounds is that of cooking sosaties. There’s one stand that cooks them, down on the western boundary of the grounds, and it flogs thousands, literally, each day. Get there at lunch time and expect to join a queue a good few hundred people long.
I have been visiting Nampo for about 15 years now and each year I promise myself that I’ll stop for a sosatie. After all, one is in the Free State surrounded by meat eating farmers. Surely, therefore, one can expect a sosatie “uit die boonste rak”?
But as someone who has “been to Nampo” you will also know that the show is huge, and to see the whole thing in a day is virtually impossible unless one has a plan of attack. This requires one to enter the grounds and start walking, up and down, the various roads in the grounds, working systematically from the eastern side to the western, curving round through the museum and back to the exit, an exercise that will take one about five hours in itself. The problem, if one is after the elusive sosatie, is that one arrives at the western boundary at about 2pm, just as the queue outside the sosatie stand is at its longest so I have invariably finished up shovelling down a hamburger from the NG Kerk Lindley’s kiosk near the museum instead. Not gourmet fare, to be sure, but the ladies are pleasant and the service is quick.
So this year I decided to reverse my route. Instead of working from east to west I would work from west to east. And while this would mean I would be eating my sosatie more as a mid-morning snack than lunch it would at least mean I wouldn’t have to wait in a long queue.
But surely that would be worth it for the wonderful, marinated meat that was responsible, year after year, for the delicious aroma over the showground?
By 1030 I was outside the sosatie stand. The queue was short … only about 20 people in front of me. The serving ladies were pleasant and efficient. “Chicken or pork? Plain? Or in a roll?”
Six pieces of meat on a stick were not going to be enough sustenance on their own to see me through to supper, so I asked for it in a roll. Here it comes… Inside a fresh hot dog roll nestled a fresh, hot pork sosatie, just the right yellow turmeric and curry colour that I remembered from my childhood. But what’s this? Smothering the whole thing was an onion sauce! A sweet, sticky onion sauce!
I scraped most of the sauce into the roll and sunk my teeth into the first chunk of pork. Yellow on the outside it may have been, but it was dry and white inside. Oh dear, what a disappointment.
So next year it’s back to the NG Kerk’s hamburgers for me, although I saw one kiosk advertising Wagyu beef burgers at R70 a pop. The price, and the fact that the kiosk selling them is next to the stinky goat sheds rather puts me off, however.

1 comment

  • I agree, the food this year at Nampo 2019 was disappointing, being smothered in onions or sauces. What makes it worse is that I’m diabetic and they don’t cater for that.
    My solution is to buy “naked” pancakes and take my own cinnamon & xylitol mix with and smother the pancakes with it.

    Solution; I pack my own food and snacks, and I make my own sosaties, and way cheaper from a recipe in the Cook and Enjoy/Kook en Geniet or using Crown National sosatie mix.
    Only downside is that it’s cold