Chef Ukhonaye Mconi, chef lecturer at the Rosebank branch of Capsicum Culinary Studio in Johannesburg, believes South Africans should start embracing and promoting their own cuisine – and not just on Heritage Day. “It’s all very well talking about regional and seasonal ingredients but we also have to take these and use them in uniquely South African dishes updated for a new dining generation,” he says.

“Your best meal is formulated in your heart and soul. And any person who eats your food is affected by what you have in your heart; happy or troubled,” says Mconi.

Below, Ukhonaye Mconi talks about what Heritage Day means to him.

What does Heritage Day mean to you? The celebration of who we are as Africans. Also celebrating each and every culture.

How do you define South African cuisine? Diverse and underappreciated.

What would be your perfect Heritage Day meal; why, and who would you share it with? Any meal cooked by my family. We are a family of people who love celebrations and shared meals.

What are your favourite three South African dishes and why?
Umngqusho – I love samp and beans.
Pig’s head – cooked in a cast iron pot outside.
Tripe – delicious and underrated.
These meals shout ‘home’ to me and really got me into cooking from a young age.

Are there any South African dishes that have fallen out of favour that you would like to see make a comeback? I think we need to introduce all our dishes to the world. There are so many wonderful South African dishes that deserve to make their way onto mainstream menus at our restaurants. It’s time we start celebrating them and updating them which is what I have done with the Umngqusho recipe.

Click here for his recipe for Bacon Umngqusho Arancini. 

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