September 23, 2022

BO-KAAP KOMBUIS KEEPS CAPE MALAY HERITAGE ALIVE


Nestled in the steep hills of the much loved and colourful Bo-Kaap, sits the famous Bo-Kaap Kombuis. A restaurant made famous for serving traditional Cape Malay foods and desserts, drawing in customers from all over the world, to celebrate this unique style of food found only in Cape Town.

“We established this restaurant with this simple objective. Which was to keep the food that our grandmothers and mothers cooked because it’s also becoming a dying legacy of cuisine,” says Nazli Kasu-Larny, one of the visionaries behind “The Kombuis” as it is affectionately known as.

Before settling on the iconic cuisine served at the restaurant, The Kombuis went through a variety of experimental menu items and phases, from its humble beginnings as a simple coffee stop, to the tourist magnate it is today.

“Eventually, we got to what we wanted: strictly, kombuis food, strictly ouma se kos. You know, even the dessert: aartappel porring with stewed dried fruit, the koeksisters. So, in that line, and we’re trying to uphold that, and that’s the celebration of our cuisine…And as long as we can, we would want to hold on to the idea and maybe Bo-Kaap is so important that we keep that heritage and we keep holding on to our very special meals,” says Nazli.

Today, The Kombuis offers a variety of Cape Malay traditional foods and desserts, a cuisine that Nazli describes as a “dying” art, saying that people do not cook as they used to and that you can’t find food like this in a typical restaurant.

Having the restaurant in the historic area of Bo-Kaap, previously known as the “Malay Quarter”, an area which was formally racially segregated (yet somehow managed to escape the bulldozers during the Group Areas Act) and the centre of the Cape Malay culture, as just important as the food, explains Nazli.

“We were born and bred here. We [were] schooled here, it’s part of our lives. We understand the cuisine, we understand the culture, the religion. We understand how food connects people. We never used to eat alone. It was always people around the kitchen table eating and its food that connected us,” she says.

The Kombuis has attracted a variety of local and international customers and tourists, all eager to get a taste of Cape Malay cuisine, giving it the exposure, it very much deserves.

“I’m quite busy doing cooking lessons for tour groups. And my biggest intake for years is amongst the French people. So at least once/twice a week with a French group coming in, they will have [a] lunch. But before [the] lunch we will do an interactive cooking class and it gets very, very wild. We fold samosas, we make curries, [and] I show them the spices…this is part of the exposure of Cape Malay Foods,” says Nazli.