Shisa nyama (which translates as hot meat) — sometimes spelled chisa or chesa — is the traditional Zulu version of what white South Africans have typically called a braaivleis (Afrikaans for “grill meat”) and what Americans call a barbecue.
If you go to a township club in South Africa, for example the famed Max’s Lifestyle, a legendary hip and happening greater Durban tavern, you will choose your meat from the equivalent of a butcher’s stand.
This meat will then be taken out back, or round side, to where coals are being tended in large grill areas that have been set up. There, cooks will throw your chosen cut onto the grid and grill it over the open flames — and let the feasting begin!
If you travel to rural butcheries in South Africa, there is often a grill set up outside. Ideal for quick roadside lunches.
Sometimes grill pits are similarly set up in rural areas near what are sometimes called slaughter trees, where traditionally butchered cows are ceremonially hung before being feasted upon. See this story, Holy Cow, written by a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa.
Shisa nyama, once casual, township, down-home and unsophisticated feasting, has, over the past few years, become trendy in cities around South Africa.
It’s also become big business, with formal franchise stores setting up in city centers.
This week it was announced that a South African fast food franchise, Chesa Nyama, will open its first sit-down shop in the United States later this year after brand owners, Gold Brands, struck a deal with the an American investment company.
Africa News Agency (ANA) and Independent Online say that according to Gold Brands, the first Chesa Nyama store in the US is set to open in Nashville, Tennessee, before the end of October.
Gold Brands announced in a cautionary this week that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with private investors, South African-based industrial holdings firm Red Hornbill and the White Family Partnership – an American-based partner – to take the South African franchise to the US market.
The deal would allow for the establishment of the US-based Chesa Nyama Holdings, with Gold Brands as a partner in the joint venture.
See Chesa Nyama will be bringing the “iconic South African braai culture to America here.
See Afar magazine’s story on a Shisa Nyama meal in Soweto, South Africa.
Look forward to a new — African — take on the US barbecue experience.