Where and What Cape Townians Eat

Mariam's Kitchen

We loved Mariam's Kitchen so much we kind of want to keep it a secret among ourselves. But alas, we were told that this is where local Cape Townians eat. Ask any Cape Townian and they will be able to tell you where Mariam's Kitchen is. So I guess Mariam's Kitchen is not a closely guarded secret after all, at least not among the locals. However, this place has yet to make it to the tourist circle and I wish it will not so that it maintains its authentic local scene. Mariam's Kitchen does not even have a website of its own. The menu at the cafe lists their website address but it actually does not exist. An attempt of doing a Google search on Mariam's Kitchen goes only as far as a general listing that shows all halal Muslim restaurants in Cape Town. We visited on the day before we left Cape Town and then regretted that we were only there on our last day.

The salomie, which was made up of curry wrapped in roti, was every piece of heaven. The roti very much resembled roti prata as they call it Singapore or roti canai as known in Malaysia. The curry that is wrapped with the roti comes with a choice of minced meat, steak, or chicken. We opted for the minced meat salomie and before we left, we told the lady behind the counter how much we loved it and she replied, The next time you come back, try the steak salomie. It is the best. I think Mariam's Kitchen warrants another reason for us to return to Cape Town.

Other delicious items we tried were the chicken pie and potato samosa.

Mariam's Kitchen
101 St Georges Mall St
7:00am-5:30pm Mon-Sat



Cape Malay curries have become part of the institution of the local food scene given the history of Cape Malays in Cape Town. A well known favorite place among Cape Townians is Biesmiellah situated in the neighborhood of Bo Kaap, home to the thriving Muslim Cape Malay community. We found out beforehand that Biesmiellah, a family-owned restaurant, closes for an hour every Friday for prayers. We got to Bo Kaap a little after lunchtime and the neighborhood was bustling with people hanging out on the streets possibly having just come from Friday prayers at the neighborhood mosque. We walked up to Biesmiellah and I asked the middle aged man standing at the door, Hello, are you open?, and to which he responded while raising his welcoming hands, Yes, my darling. Please come in.

The famous bobotie is a traditional South African Cape Malay food made with spiced minced meat that is baked with an egg custard topping. The dish was a sweet-savory combination with a variety of spices resulting in a complex flavor. The food is also commonly served with side dishes including atchar (picked vegetable), beetroot, and onion-tomato salsa.

Other local favorite items from Biesmiellah are the samosas and chilli bites. Different from the samosas we've had at Indian restaurants in the U.S., the samosas at Biesmiellah had a crispier and lighter skin that resembled egg roll wrappers which we really liked. The chilli bites were savory snacks made from chickpea flour and deep fried.

We ended our meal with the delicious drink falooda, made from rose syrup, milk, jello pieces, and vanilla ice-cream.

Biesmiellah Restaurant
2 Wale Street


South African rusks really started growing on us the more we ate them on our trip. First introduced to us by our safari guide, we had them early mornings dipped in coffee or tea. From that on, we were hooked and searched for them when we arrived in Cape Town. We even bought some back with us to Chicago. Similar to biscotti (but rusks are so much better), rusks are made with bread dough and twice baked, left in the oven overnight with very low temperature. The result is dried bread and when dipped in coffee or tea, the exposed parts of the rusk is softened while the inside still maintains a perfectly crusty texture.

I might not be a huge sausage fan but I fell in love with boerewors, the South African sausage. There is something about the combination of minced beef with mixed spices that make it a really darn good sausage no matter how it is prepared. Commonly prepared in braai (South African barbeque), other ways of serving it include having it for breakfast with eggs as well as eating it hotdog-style.

The bunny chow is probably the best (and messiest) invention for South African fast food ever. Originally created by the Indian South African community in Durban, bunny chow is now loved by all South Africans. A square loaf of bread is used and the top of the bread is sliced off making it a "lid" before the center portion of the bread is cut out. Meat-based curry is then poured into the center of the bread. Curry and bread soaked in curry gravy is a perfect marriage. Sure we have had leftover curry with sliced bread at home but it just doesn't cut it. Bunny chow is the way to go.

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