What Is A Braai
A Braai, in the South African culture, is the art of cooking meat over hot coals. The word originated from the Dutch word braden (roasting) and evolved into the verb braai. A braai is not just a way of cooking in South Africa, it is a social event that brings people together and it is definitely associated with fun and togetherness. Everybody in South Africa is a braai expert and everyone has their own braai, vegetable side, salad or drink speciality that completes the event. If I can give you a heads up…..never use the word barbeque at a braai.
Stoking And Fanning The Braai Fire
The braai fire is of course the centre of the success of the braai and knowing what wood is best, how to stack the fire and the size of the fire needed to produce the perfect coals is of primary importance.
No “braaier” can be caught without the proper apparatus and risk looking like an amateur.
How often do we struggle to get the fire going? (Never admit it!) Normally we just put another firelighter in the dying fire, which can get expensive, and typically when you need it most, the firelighters are finished! Especially when you used all the firelighters to get the braai fire going and now you want to start the mood fire (yes, we start another fire for the “kuier” (chat) part of the braai, after the cooking part of the braai is done).
As kids we used to roll up newspaper to get the fire going and then fan it with a piece of cardboard to keep it going. My Father-in-law had a blow dryer that he used solely to fan the fire.
Nowadays we have all sorts of gadgets that assist the master braaier in this very important task of making the perfect fire.
An effective solution is the LK’s Turbo Fire Starter, which is an attachment for a gas bottle. They are available at various outlets and not expensive. Whilst this is a brilliant solution for the home braai, we find the additional bulk and weight of a gas bottle less than ideal when we are camping. Furthermore, this system uses gas at a fairly rapid rate, so don’t forget to switch it off as soon as the fire is going; and hope that you are not low on gas.
We always like simple and mechanical accessories whenever possible, because there is less that can go wrong. The good old braai fan has been around for years and does a pretty decent job of fanning a fire back to life. It is also freely available and inexpensive. The only drawback is that you can’t turn the handle too fast because it can lead to stripping the gears, and the handle has an irritating habit of popping out.
Finally, our search for the perfect fire stoker lead us to the good old-fashioned “blaasbalk” (bellow). This is not just a brilliantly simple tool; it’s a piece of art! They are not freely available, but there are a couple of traditionalists that still make them by hand. The best way to find one is to search for “blaasbalk” on Google for somebody that makes them near you. Andre van Niekerk (083 296 5868), based in Robertson, makes a durable product, using African teak, wine barrel oak or yellowwood, with genuine leather.
Can all the braaiers leave a comment below to let us know how you experienced these products, or better still, if there are other options worth considering. Just don’t suggest the old “tea bags soaked in paraffin”…