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A look into amasi: The history and things you can do with it

Amasi is milked from the cow and is put in a skin bag, where it ferments and acquires a sharp acid taste. Picture: Supplied

Amasi is milked from the cow and is put in a skin bag, where it ferments and acquires a sharp acid taste. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 28, 2020


Amasi, one of my favourite foods. 

Translated sour milk, amasi is one of South Africa’s popular food staples that you can enjoy with umphokoqo (crumbled pap). 

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From my understanding and how I saw it being done at home, amasi is milked from the cow, and is put in a skin bag or bucket, where it ferments and acquires a sharp acid taste. 

What I love about amasi is that it is very nutritious. It is also a pleasant beverage, especially during warmer weather. 

Below, we will be looking at the history of amasi and different things to do with it.  

Crumbled pap with amasi. Picture: Supplied

The history 

According to the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, amasi is fermented milk in a calabash, an ancient way to preserve the milk. The foundation mentions that the milk is from Nguni cattle and rarely from the goat, and that sour milk is the product obtained by spontaneous acidification of raw or more rarely boiled milk which is produced during offspring season. 

They also mention that the daily residual fresh milk from domestic consumption is poured into a container covered with a lid, no starters are used and acidification develops after a few days, either from natural flora of milk when it is not boiled, or from the bacteria growing on the sides of the vessel. 

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They say the milk is then left to settle in a quiet place, often in a covered container sheltered from dust for usually two days. 

Things you can do with it.

We spoke to celebrity chef, Siphokazi Mdlankomo who shared her knowledge of this delicious staple and different things you can do with it. 

Mdlankomo said when she thinks of amasi, the first thing that comes to her mind is homemade umvubo (a mixture of crumbled pap with amasi) and it is what she loved eating whilst growing up.

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“Growing up we would eat amasi with any starch that was available like, samp and beans and bread (you just crumble any bread and add amasi). 

Back in the days, my grandmother would make amasi by pouring milk in a calabash and place it on a warm place to let the milk ferment, and that was the best amasi ever and not the store-bought one. 

We did not have a store-bought amasi, we had homemade amasi which we best enjoyed with crumbled pap with no sugar added, “she said. 

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Marinated chicken. Picture: Supplied


You can use amasi nowadays to make desserts. For example amasi pannacotta or amasi sorbet. 

Marinate meat 

You can use amasi in chicken. You can marinate chicken with amasi, herbs, and seasoning. 


You can use amasi to bake scones. These are the most delightful treats and can take thirty minutes to make. 

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