One of the things I love about living in Bangkok is that cuisines from all around the world have a fair representation in its food landscape. I’m happy to learn that South African cuisine is also being well represented in the Big Mango. The recently opened Madibaz (official Facebook page) now provides a home for those South Africans living in Bangkok who are craving a taste of home.
Their menu offers a large selection of South African favorite comfort food dishes from the many regions which have their own unique flavors. As Anna and my experience with this kind of food is limited to having bobotie once, I made sure to visit with my South African friend, Denzyl, and his lovely bride, Cristina.
If you don’t know the food, the names will throw you for a loop. Denzyl assured me that there are actually no primate parts in the monkey gland sauce and that the bunny chow, despite its name, is absolutely nothing like the rabbit food I was imagining. It’s good to have someone in the know. But most importantly, it’s really nice to have someone who can verify for me that this South African owned restaurant using imported ingredients from South Africa is also cooking up some seriously delicious and authentic South African eats.
But read on to see what I’m talking about and learn about their story…
All about that boerewors…
Boerewors is a type of sausage that originated in both Namibia and South Africa. Its name in Afrikaans/Dutch translates as “farmer sausage” and it is popular throughout Southern Africa. These sausages at Madibaz are made with both beef and pork, with the fattier chuck cut being used.
The 2 menu options to try this sausage is either with pap or served on a roll. With either option you have your choice of 4 different sauces:
- Tomato and Onion Relish (what we had during this visit)
- Chakalaka (a spicier tomato, bell pepper, and bean relish)
- Mango and Peach Chutney
- Caramelized Onion
Boerewors & Pap
What’s a pap, you ask? Pap is a coarsely ground maize dish similar to polenta which is a very popular staple dish in South Africa as a quick and cheap way to carbo-load. Its flavor is actually quite bland which is why it’s usually topped with vegetable sauces and served alongside more flavorful accompaniments.
This Boerewors & Pap (180 baht) is a hearty meal of carbs and protein. You won’t find a more authentic pap in Bangkok because Madibaz imports their mielie-meal from Africa. Fun Fact: it’s not unusual for customs to cut a few of the bags open on arrival because of its suspicious white powdery appearance.
For something a little more filling, try the Boerewors Roll (150 baht). Here the sausage is served in a large bun and topped with your choice of sauce.
This was my first impression trying these sausages and I have to tell you I am impressed.
Sausages are a balancing act. If there’s too much fat then they are too greasy. If they are too lean then they are dry. These sausages have just the right amount so that they are meaty and juicy, but not greasy. Though the sausage has subtle flavors of coriander seeds, nutmeg and cloves it’s the flavor of the beef that really stands out. I dig that.
Just from my table of guests, this sausage received the enthusiastic approval of one American, Swede, Italian, and South African (who confessed to returning the next morning to get another Boerewors Roll for breakfast). I don’t judge–I am a good friend.
South Africa’s National Dish
Bobotie is South Africa’s unique national dish thought to originally come from the Cape Malay area. It’s a casserole-style dish of blended minced meat, spices, dried fruit, and yellow rice with a thin baked egg and cream topping adorned with bay leaves. Most popularly made with minced lamb or beef, Madibaz breaks with that tradition using ground pork (non-beef eaters give thanks) in their Bobotie & RIce (150 baht) dish.
This is a very flavorful and filling dish. If you’re flying solo and can only order one menu item, this would be my recommendation to start your exploration into South African cuisine!
This Pie and Chips (150 baht) arrived with little expectations. I mean, look at it. It ain’t pretty…and c’mon it’s a meat pie. How spectacular is that going to be?
Apparently the fireworks are inside the pie.
This thin-crusted pie is loaded with large tender meaty chunks that melt in your mouth and richly flavored beef gravy. When I asked for Denzyl’s feedback he stared dreamily forward and murmured softly, “It’s just like the greasy spoon diners back home.” Of course, that didn’t really sound positive to me. I’ve had some poor experiences greasy spoon diner experiences on cross country drives in the USA.
But after he elaborated, it was actually the highest praise he could give it. You see, this pie had all the right flavors to evoke memories of hitting the greasy spoon joints with his mates after a night out. You know it’s truly a taste of home if the taste itself is nostalgic. What can be higher praise than that?
For burger lovers, Madibaz offers a few options. Originally we had wanted to try the Monkey Gland Steak Burger (after I was assured there’d be no primate parts in it) but they were out of the sauce. So we opted for the Biltong Beef Burger (150 baht) instead. This is your basic cheeseburger but what makes it different is that it is topped with finely chopped bits of biltong, a dry-cured seasoned beef (don’t call it jerky!).
But if you’re craving Biltong Madibaz sells it as well as Droewors and Chili Bites in vacuum-sealed bags for 160 baht. We didn’t go home empty-handed.
Save room for dessert!
There are 2 dessert choices on Madibaz’s menu: Malva Pudding (75 baht) and a Milk Tart (75 baht). But follow their FB page as they regularly have special off-menu items popping up (koeksisters are one example).
They were sold out of the Malva Pudding (a spongy pudding cake with a caramelized texture made with apricot jam) so we ordered a couple of Milk Tarts to share (these were selling out quickly as well). This Milk Tart was absolutely delicious and just the sweet thing needed to finish a fantastic, and filling meal. If the Malva Pudding sold out before the Milk Tart, and the creamy tart was this good, then I need to get my hands on a Malva Pudding!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include at least one picture of my pal, Denzyl (though he did manage to hand model for a few of these pictures). His enthusiasm as we tried the dishes got me excited to learn more about the cuisine and feel assured that Madibaz needed to be written about and have their story told.
He also footed the bill.
A chat with the owner…
During our visit, we had the opportunity to meet with Charles Greeff, the owner of Madibaz. Originally from Pretoria, Charles has lived throughout South Africa and has spent many years working around the world in the F&B industry (most interestingly at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida–yes that one).
But on a visit to Thailand in 2017 his life completely changed. Not because he fell in love with the country. Rather he fell in love at the airport with the very first Thai woman he met. They’re married now so I guess Madibaz’s is rooted in a love story…
A simple beginning…
Madibaz’s love story also contains the love and longing Charles felt for the flavors of his home country of South Africa. To which, he just couldn’t find anything locally that tasted like home. So he started making it himself and he started with biltong (not jerky!). His biltong became very popular and then someone asked him if he could make a boerewors sausage. He could, he did, and it was very well received in Bangkok’s community of 4,000 strong South African expat community.
Soon Siam BBQ Company, an online butcher and deli of South African foods was established. They began to also cater to sporting events attracting South Africans and the South African Embassy’s special functions. As its popularity took off the time seemed right to open a South African restaurant called Shabeen located on Sukhumvit Soi 21. You could say they struck when the hammer was hottest, and though well received after its brief opening, unfortunately COVID-19 threw a giant monkey wrench in their plans.
Siam BBQ Company continutes to produce biltong, sausages, pies, and desserts for online ordering, and as restrictions began to lift in Bangkok, Charles and his business partner, Andre, began to plan for something new…
An homage to a great man…
Charles wanted the restaurant to honor a great man important to South Africans. Madibaz is the clan for former South African President, Nelson Mandela. It is also why Madibaz restaurant was opened on July 18th, Nelson Mandela’s birthday.
South African cuisine is so widely varied and extensive. What you find on the tables in Capetown are very different than what you might find on the tables in Pretoria, or Durban. You could have a separate restaurant with thick menus to cover the many different regions of the country. But with Madibaz, Charles tried to take different elements of the cuisine from the different regions so that wherever folks might be from in South Africa they’d be sure to find something on the menu that tasted like home.
So whether it’s chicken curry in a bread bowl (bunny chow) or just a burger or boerewors sausage grilled using the same kind of lava stone griller used by Spur branches across South Africa, you can be assured that you will experience an authentic tasting experience at Madibaz!
I’m hungry. Where is it?
Madibaz is located just outside the exit (either 1 or 3) of the Bang Chak BTS station. You’ll find it aside several other food vendors with community seating available at the Bangkchak Square. Order at their booth. Listen for the bell. Pick up your food when it’s on the counter. Enjoy and bus your own table.
If you’ve got a craving for or interest in South African food this is the place for you to satisfy it! Madibaz doesn’t serve alcoholic beverages but there’s no problem hitting the nearby 7-11 to stock up on your favorite beverage. Nobody will look at you strangely. Seriously, why wouldn’t you want a beer with any of these dishes?
For those wanting a chance to really sample South African fare, as well as meet South African expats in Bangkok, Madibaz holds a monthly braai, or BBQ social, which is held either on the last Saturday of the month or first Saturday of the month (check out their Facebook page to keep informed).
I want to hear from you!
Should you decide to experience Madibaz I’d love to hear your feedback in the comment section below, directly to me, or via message on either the Chow Traveller Facebook page or Chow Traveller Instagram. However you choose, I’d love to hear from you!