Because local is lekker: Durban twins take SA flavours to San Francisco
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CAPE TOWN - Twin sisters Pamela and Wendy Drew are tickling San Franciscan taste buds with South African cuisine, and hoping to take their venture global.
The sisters are the brains behind food company Amawele - which means ’twins’ in South Africa’s isiZulu and isiXhosa languages - and have been treating residents of San Francisco in the United States to some of their home country’s traditional flavours for about eight years now.
The idea to start Amawele was inspired by a lack of representation of South African food in one of America’s most populous cities and its surrounding areas. This became even more apparent when South African became the first African country to host the soccer World Cup in 2010.
“In 2010 Pamela and I wanted to host a soccer World Cup birthday party (but) we couldn’t find any caterers that specialised in South African cuisine," said Wendy Drew.
“Pam and I took upon ourselves to make all the food and due to the positive reviews on the food from our guests Pamela and I saw a business opportunity and Amawele’s South African Cuisine was born," she told the African News Agency (ANA).
The Drew sisters, who are originally from Durban in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, founded the enterprise in 2013.
Pamela has always been passionate about cooking since her student days in San Francisco, when friends would ask her to recreate meals that they would have ordered at a fancy restaurant.
The twins were fortunate in that they started the company in a city that welcomes diversity and whose residents are always eager to try new foods.
"San Francisco is full of open-minded people so our cuisine was a breath of fresh air," said Wendy.
Due to their upbringing, all their dishes are Durban-inspired and include curries, vetkoeks (fried dough bread), bunny chows (hollowed-out bread loaves filled with curry) samp (pounded dried corn kernels) as well as beans, spiced rice and savoury pies.
The people's favourite is the bunny chow, whose fillings comprise either a vegetarian or meat curry.
In 2019, the Drew sisters moved their business online, allowing customers to make orders for delivery.
They have added a Rooibos drink to the menu, out of a desire to create a beverage that truly represents South Africa. The rooibos leaf is grown in the country’s Cederberg mountains.
Currently, Amawele’s South African Cuisine only takes local orders, but hopes to expand internationally soon.
Unfortunately, it was not left unscathed by the Covid-19 pandemic which hit the hospitality industry hard last year.
Before the pandemic, Amawele’s was doing extremely well, but things have since been tough, said Wendy Drew.
"Now that world is slowly opening up (again) we are hopeful that we shall return to our glory days," she added optimistically.
– African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa