Going bananas for Congolese fried plantains
Andre Burgener has been immersed in all things food since she took over the making of the family's lunch box sandwiches aged eight (her mom could make a mean creme brulee and a staggering souffle, but could never butter the bread all the way to the edges.
I LOVE going into Johannesburg's Fordsburg during Ramadan, when so many restaurants offer a fantastic array of savouries.
Some set up tables on the pavement so you can easily spot where to stop and load up. As these restaurants do virtually no lunch trade during Ramadan, they spend the day making vast quantities of snacks for fasters to take home to feast on later.
Puris, samoosas, parathas, pakoras, sweetmeats and much more - including many items never usually on the menus and only made for Ramadan - are there for the picking. Cruise down Lillian Avenue, Mint Road or Central to stumble across these snacks.
Though Pretoria's Zemara is the first restaurant choice for the local west-African diplomatic set, it is as laid-back as can be.
My friend Anna's little boy Josiah has collapsed at the table in his state-of-the-art Batman suit, lying flat on his back across three chairs, boots in the air, and I don't think it's just because the owners know him well that nobody batted (apologies for lame pun) an eyelid.
Nestled in Arcadia, Zemara serves the best Congolese food for kilometres. I love the (free range) chicken smothered in peanut sauce and the saka-saka greens with dried fish, but the fried plantains, a very starchy banana-like plant, are the winner.
I could eat bucketfuls. The tilapia fish is so-so - freshwater fish really demand firming up with copious salting before cooking.
Chilli oil - imported from the Congo - is presented in a small medical ear and nose-dropper bottle. It's potent to the point of being lethal. And curiously delicious. Even if you're no chilli-head, go there just for the plantains.
Zemara is at 933 Schoeman Street, Arcadia. Call the restaurant on 012-342-3080.
I don't know why my German gran's favourite snack is listed on a "weird food" site, considering other unmentionable entries. It's not weird. It's just not so well-known outside Germany and Holland, where it's everyday fare. I often think this slightly rubbishy sweet treat is better than cake.
How: Get yourself one fat slice of the freshest, softest white bread - proper rubbish supermarket type or Portuguese loaf or kitke (it must be white and soft).
Spread lavishly with butter. Sprinkle just as lavishly with hundreds and thousands (called hagel, which means hail, in Holland and Germany).
My gran's other version, with a layer of cream cheese between the butter and sprinkles, and the addition of white sugar, is less traditional, but might be the best of all. This snack tastes extra good if you eat it while playing cards.