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4Roomed eKasi Culture Food Truck in Cape Town
Meet the mobile restaurant that’s bringing healthy, fine dining food to the townships
Cape Town local Abigail Mbalo is one of those rare, brave individuals who has a dream and actually takes the necessary steps to turn it into a reality. In her case, the dream is to alter poor eating habits in the Mother City’s townships, and the tool she’s developed to help make her wish come true is the new 4Roomed eKasi Culture food truck, which she launched in late October 2014.
The dental technologist and MasterChef South Africa 2014 top 12 contestant bore the idea for this mobile dining venture after being faced first-hand with the negative consequences of living an unhealthy lifestyle. In 2007, she lost her older brother to diabetes and this tragic event made her acutely aware of the way in which township dining customs, like enjoying regular shisa nyamas (braais) where plates are piled high with meat (and only meat), impact on the wellbeing of residents and visitors who frequent these neighbourhoods to socialise. So, with the help of her husband Sam Mokoena, she set about establishing a concept that could help combat chronic diseases by changing diets.
“My aim is to give people access to a balanced plate of food,” explains the Gugulethu-born Abigail, who works full-time for the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Dental Sciences department. “I want to offer people an alternative, or even just a more wholesome accompaniment, to braai meat”.
In order to do this, she plans to move her mobile kitchen – it’s housed in a vintage Bedford bus –between different shisa nyama sites in the settlements, serving up meals that have been given a healthy, fine dining twist. Alongside using fresh, organic ingredients and injecting her food with fancy spins, Abigail’s also eager to focus specifically on those dishes that many township locals were raised on.
“I have beautiful memories from childhood that are wrapped around the smells of cooking,” says the gifted chef. “So, I want to use my food to evoke a sense of nostalgia in others too.”
Accordingly, she’s taken traditional ekasi cuisine and tweaked it to reflect modern culinary trends, while, of course, all the time making sure that every meal is nutritious and laden with delicious locally sourced vegetables, even if she has to conceal them in some other form. The menu changes constantly, but as an idea, food truck patrons can look forward to options like lamb shank in red wine jus served with a trio of pap (one version is made with butternut and nutmeg; another with spinach and cream; and the third with beetroot pulp, roasted garlic and feta cheese) or free-range farm chicken with creamy potato purée and a pickled vegetable mix.
Unlike most food trailers, 4Roomed has a sit-down component in the form of a pop-up restaurant that’s set up just in front of the van. And to further enhance a sense of wistfulness, Abigail has decorated this nomadic eatery with the sort of eclectic, antique furnishings found in the four-roomed houses that most township tenants lived in years ago (the truck’s name is a nod to these ekasi dwellings of past). More specifically, the space is adorned with vinyl records, vintage suitcases, old gas lamps and ball-and-claw furniture – all items she remembers from her own childhood home.
Ultimately, the founder hopes that the homely ambience of the restaurant and the delicious, healthy food will encourage those living in the city to venture out to the settlements on Cape Town’s outskirts. And similarly, she plans to bring some ekasi culture to the more affluent suburbs by parking the trailer at various popular inner-city markets. In this way, Abigail aspires to use 4Roomed to help break down cultural and geographical divides that unfortunately still exist in our diverse metropolis.
Needless to say, her dreams are big, but she’s moving closer and closer to achieving them, one healthy, gourmet mobile meal at a time.
Note: Currently, the 4Roomed eKasi Culture truck serves its fine dining fare on weekends only from a spot opposite the Blue Moon Sports Café in Khayelitsha. Soon though, it’ll start moving around to other venues, so keep an eye on the trailer’s Facebook page to learn more about its future whereabouts.
Tip: If you don’t feel like sitting down at 4Roomed, you can order takeaways too, and if you’re keen to enjoy the concept in your own space, you can hire the truck for private functions.
The Bill: Prices range between around R80 and R100 for a fine dining eKasi meal.
Operating Hours: Saturday – Sunday: 1pm – 7:30pm (subject to change)
+27 (0)76 157 3177 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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A fan of the whole mobile dining movement? Read about another local food truck, the PitMasters trailer in Cape Town.
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