Tag Archives: Braai

Baobab BBQ: South African braai meets American BBQ

There has always been controversy over the meaning of the word “barbecue” – some people use it interchangeably with “cookout” – grilling burgers or other meats in the backyard, while purists would argue that “barbecue” only actually applies to meats cooked low and slow in a smoker. Barbecue gets even more complicated when you factor in usage in other countries. In South Africa, barbecue – in all senses of the word – is called braai. Now there is a place in Chicago to experience low and slow smoked meats with a South African braai twist, Baobab BBQ (2301 W. Foster Ave., Chicago, IL). The owner, Andrew Dunlop, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa was extremely friendly, and chatted with us after our meal. Dunlop was long obsessed with American BBQ, and brings his mix of American and South African sensibilities to the Baobab menu.

The main attraction at Baobab BBQ is the meat, you can pick a choice of pulled pork, brisket, or roast chicken. There is also the classic South African spiced beef sausage: boerewors. You can get a combination platter of various meat (Brisket, Pulled Pork, Ribs, Pulled Chicken, Hot Link- $19) or sandwiches on brioche rolls with slaw ($9). Sides are extra, and their signature side is mac and cheese with bacon. We ordered the boerewors sandwich and a pulled pork sandwich – both were excellent. The pulled pork was tender and juicy, and we liked the slightly-spiced boerewors, which was similar to a brat but had a flavor all of its own. There are a variety of sauces on the counter to top your meats with, including the intriguingly-named Monkey Gland sauce. We were assured that the monkey gland sauce was that in name only (it is actually a ginger, garlic and chutney-based sweet sauce). Other varieties include Bourbon, Kansas City-style and mustard sauce.

Though many of the meats are prepared in American style, other South African flavors permeate the menu. There is also a salad with a traditional South African biltong, a dried beef, topping the salad ($8). For dessert you can get South African classics ($5 each): melktert (milk tart) or Koeksusters (braided fried dough). We tried both of these desserts, the milk tart was a pastry crust shell with a delicately-flavored milky pudding, and the koeksisters reminded us of a crispy, syrupy churro. The last dessert, which we didn’t try on this visit, is another SA staple: Malva Pudding, an apricot cake covered in cream. Another nice added feature is that Baobab donates some of its profits to local schools. Baobab BBQ is a unique addition to the thriving barbecue scene in Chicago, and we appreciate the South African braai twist on US barbecue.

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Braai, National BBQ Pastime of South Africa

South Africa FlagThough in the United States BBQ may seem as American apple pie, it has a special place in the national consciousness of many countries, none more so than in South Africa. Braai (rhymes with “cry”) literally means “barbecue” or “grill” in Afrikaans, and is a venerable tradition among all South Africans. South Africa even has a national Braai Day, September 24th of every year. While braai refers to the grill, which is almost always wood or charcoal (sorry, no propane here!), it also refers to the event itself, much like barbecue does in the US. A real braai typically includes a heap of meat, a wood grill, icy cold beverage and large group of friends. For the newbie, here’s some braai advice from the king of Braai in South Africa.

Boerwoers on the Braai

Boerewors on the Braai by André van Rooyen

So what do you bring to a braai? The answer is, predictably: it depends, but it seems like nearly anything goes. Though you may grill anything from kebabs to chicken, steaks, fish (in coastal areas); something quintessentially South African is boerewors. Boerewors are a type of spiced beef (sometimes mixed with pork) sausage that is native to South Africa, and is typically found in a coil formation, as seen above. If you find yourself in Wisconsin on Braai Day you can even find South African-style Boerwoers in MilwaukeeOr for the intrepid, make your own boerewors from scratch.

Sosaties on the Braai

Sosaties on the Braai by MacDara Conroy

Never fear though, even if you don’t have boerewors, you can still have a perfectly respectable braai. Sosaties, or grilled kebabs, usually made with lamb, are a favorite choice for a braai. Another classic non-meat braai dish is pap, a sort of South African polenta made with cornmeal. Yuppiechef has a nice version of Stywe pap with a tomato relish. For more inspiration, Cook Sister has a great description of Braai culture, as well as a great roundup of recipes, both classic and modern. Summer is still going strong, and we are looking forward to adding some Braai flavor to our next barbecue.


Filed under BBQ Tour, World Eats