My Favorite (and the Most Disgusting) Condiments from South Africa

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A few weeks removed from my first trip to South Africa, there are many things I miss: the incredibly friendly people, the beautiful and varied landscape, and, of course, the abundant wildlife. But perhaps surprisingly (and perhaps not), one of the things I find myself thinking about most often is the food--and not just the flavorful game meat (I'm saving that for a later post). At nearly every meal, there were two things I invariably found myself reaching for: Mrs. H.S. Ball's Original Recipe Chutney and Nando's Peri-Peri Sauce.

Chutney had mostly been a foreign concept to me. The few times I had it prior to Africa, I'd enjoyed it in restaurants, but it just wasn't something I considered using at home. Well, that's all changed after my first taste of Mrs. Ball's. Made with peaches and apricots, the condiment delivers the perfect blend of sweet and spice. (The Hot version is even spicier, though not what I'd consider overly so.) I used it on rice, vegetables, eggs, and even (blasphemy!) backstrap. I didn't think to smuggle any home, but luckily Mrs. Ball's is so popular you can buy it here in the States, which is what I just did, ordering two bottles.

I also put an order in for a bottle of Nando's Peri-Peri Sauce. In South Africa and around the world, Nando's is well known as the place to get great flame-grilled chicken coated in a peppery, lip-numbing sauce made from the African bird's eye (or peri peri) chili. The chain of restaurants is so popular it started marketing a line of bottled sauces, ranging from the standard medium flavor to an extra hot version. Like Mrs. Ball's, Nando's Peri-Peri Sauce is a staple on South African tables, similar in popularity, though not exactly flavor, to Tabasco here in the States.

Unlike my hunting partner Neil Davies, who was born in South Africa but now serves as the marketing director for Hornady, one taste I won't be missing is Bovril. For Davies, the overpoweringly beefy, salty spread (similar in consistency and appearance to Marmite or Vegemite) is the "taste of [his] childhood" and he was anxious to dig into a jar on his first morning in camp. In the spirit of international relations, I tried some slathered on toast as he suggested. Imagine coating your tongue with a paste made from beef bouillon and you'll pretty much get the idea of the throat-clenching response I had to my first, and last, taste of the stuff.