Siba SA’s next international TV chef

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ON SET: Celebrity chef Siba Mtongana shoots a scene for Sibas Table, her first series for Food Network. Picture: Leon Lestrade

Cape Town - She’s South Africa’s next international TV chef and she will introduce our food to the world.

New mother Siba Mtongana will star in the cooking series Siba’s Table on Food Network. She is the second South African cook to appear on the satellite channel after Jenny Morris in Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco, which aired last year. Siba’s Table is set to air later this year.

Mtongana is putting her spin on South African ingredients, and introducing these flavours to other parts of the world.

A good example of this, can be seen in her imifino fritters, a recipe that appears in the “cocktail” episode of the series The Good Weekend saw being shot on a beautiful set in Hout Bay.

She says after the shoot: “Each episode is taken around stories and chapters of my life where I share special occasions with family and friends who come over for a visit while I prepare a meal for them.”

The cocktail episode involves preparing drinks and canapés for what is loosely scripted as a “catch-up session” with her girlfriends. She concocts a mix of vodka, celery, orange juice and carrots, but makes a virgin, no-alcohol version for herself.

“It’s because of the baby, ironically,” she says to the camera.

The drink is addictive enough for one extra to keep slurping it up between shots.

Then the girls had chicken wings and imifino fritters – the latter based on a dish from Mtongana’s childhood.

She says imifino was a snack her mother made for their family.

Recently, she asked her mother to prepare the spinach, water and maize mix for her. While playing with her food, Mtongana began shaping it into round fritters. She pan fried it and topped it with a soya and mayo blob, resembling sushi.

“No one has seen this before. It is tradition with a twist.”

It’s one of a series of not-so-typical interpretations as typically South African fare is introduced to foreign audiences on the show.

Mtongana’s “Seven-colour Sunday” is a massive Sunday lunch including separately cooked dishes that ideally provide lunchers with a colourful plate. This will be featured in an episode in which she cooks for people from her church.

The spread includes lamb, gravy, savoury rice and roasted butternut with feta, honey and pumpkin seeds.

“Quite a few (local dishes are featured) as that’s part of my cuisine and what makes me, me.

“We wrote the script around how I speak, so that it reflects the essence of my personality, as that makes the show real.

“Speaking to an international audience is quite different and I continuously have to be aware that non-South African viewers are most likely not to understand our lingo. So when I’m doing my links and explaining my recipes, I throw in words like ‘grilling’ or ‘barbecuing’ so that the international audience can be also in the know how of what I’m referring to without being boring to the South African audience.”

Mtongana is no stranger to local screens, having starred in Mzansi Magic’s Cooking with Siba in 2011. But there is a big difference between the two shows.

“Cooking with Siba was more focused on the celebrity guest, me and the food with lots of chit-chats and fun, and it worked very well for what we wanted to achieve. The focus of Siba’s Table is more on me and the food with less focus on the guests – but still with lots of fun.” - Weekend Argus

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