Sometimes the supermarket can throw out some different items, especially the weekly specials at Aldi. They sometimes get products from different parts of the world, and in the last few weeks they seem to have scored case loads of South African goods - ketchup, chutneys and these intriguing tins of chakalaka.
Just saying chakalaka makes you feel happy. Whenever you say it, there's riffs happening from 'Walk the Dinosaur" running through your head in a flash. Just the general use of the word chakalaka at any opportunity makes you feel happy.
"What's for dinner, darling?"
"Shall we have chakalaka?"
"Oh, chakalaka sounds great."
"Chakalaka it is. How do you want your chakalaka, hot and spicy or mild and spicy?"
"Do you want a glass of wine with your chakalaka?"
"I'll do the laundry, then we'll eat chakalaka."
There were two types of chakalaka available at the supermarket, Mild and Spicy or Hot and Spicy. There's no difference to the vegetable mix but the heat level between the two is noticeable. The hot version really did have a little burn kick to it, mixed in with the mild it was just about perfect. The deeper red colour of the spicy chakalaka gives away the amount of extra chilli used.
Chakalaka is a side dish that is a staple of South African home cooking. There's closely guarded family recipes, multiple versions and favourites. It's the type of dish created to help cheap, blander food go a long way and spread out the family food budget or as a relish or sauce for meats. African ground maize dishes (known by a number of names: mealie pap, ugali, fufu) are especially helped by a dollop of this sauce.
The main ingredients are onion, beans and tomatoes, there also seemed to be carrot in the mix. There are a variety of spices used, from curry to chilli and more chilli.
There's also a fair whack of oil in the mix which helps preserve but most importantly spreads those flavours around even more.
We've been piling spoonfuls of the stuff onto cheese toasted sandwiches, mixed with melted cheese it's a wonder. A dollop with a grilled sausage was a excellent, or as a side dish with lots of other curries would also be great.
"Koo. It's the best you can do."
Chakalaka is available as a limited item from Aldi, about $2.50 a can. It's not cheap, but a little goes a long way.