Spicy sisterhood stirs gourmet halaal in Durbs
Creativity, passion and their Muslim faith inspire chef sisters Zainab and Faatimah Paruk. Their success is flavoured by Durban’s diversity.
An unlikely trio we were. Paul the Catholic Kenyan. Mohi the Muslim Libyan. Yours truly the Caucasian Zen bunny. How I thought of us, the contrasts in what – and how – we cooked being the memory-trigger that still makes me smile fondly, looking back to when we shared a flat, shared the kitchen, not too long ago.
Paul was the most diligent cook. His work often had him home late. But never too late, it seemed, to head into the kitchen to boil water in a pot, pour in his favourite Nyala super maize meal (I messaged him in San Francisco, where he is doing post-doc research, to check on the brand) and beat it with his wooden spoon into ugali, the Kenyan version of a crumbly mieliepap. This he would eat with whatever meat was being furiously cooked to near oblivion, the stove always on max-high. Sometimes on a Saturday he would head into town for his favourite tilapia fish; memories of his Lake Victoria childhood. Then I’d see him at the back yard tap, scraping off scales, cutting, washing the little fishies, then dangling them to drip-dry from kitchen forks stuck into the under-building gratings.
When Mohi, a doctor, called from Cape Town wanting the room we’d advertised, I explained I wasn’t Muslim, presuming he’d made a mistake. He asked if he could send his friend, Mohamed, to view the space.
“What about the kitchen and cooking?” I asked, when Mohamed said our place would work for his friend.
No problem, he assured me.
So then there was Mohi who cooked on Sundays, always using my big blue enamel pot. On a limited budget, studying and working long hospital shifts and careful about what he ate – affably declining anything I invited him to share – he cooked pasta. Libya’s colonial Italian influence, he said. He added canned tomato and that did for him all week.
Cultural. Religious. Idiosyncratic. Food laws, rules and habits. What I’ve been thinking about these past weeks since connecting with the Chilli Chocolate Chefs, deliciously delightful ebullient sisters Zainab and Faatimah Paruk, who over the past 10 years – first from an aunt’s kitchen then, the last three, from their corporate kitchen, office and pretty little pink shop in an historic building in Musgrave – have made an indelible mark on Durban’s diverse culinary landscape with their certified fully halaal catering company. Link through to read the full article Spicy sisterhood stirs gourmet halaal in Durbs in Daily Maverick TGIFood.