Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Piesang.

As Bordeaux and I prepared to leave Southeast Asia, we were faced with the simple fact that we didn’t want to-- couldn’t, really-- leave behind the food, culture, and style that we’d come to love in Southeast Asia. So we decided to take some of it with us. We developed an idea for a Southeast Asian café offering a menu of the dishes we loved. It would have the style of Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Saigon, with a menu that would showcase the diversity and scope of the region’s cuisines. We wanted to create an intimate space where we could show people that Southeast Asian food is so much more than phat thai, pho, and green curry; that it doesn’t have to be fried in a wok or dipped in peanut sauce to be Asian. The name for our concept? Piesang.

Piesang is the Afrikaans word for a banana, and it seemed a fitting name for our idea. The iconic fruit is not only native to tropical Asia, but it’s also ubiquitous in the region’s cuisines. Sweet bananas are served in coconut milk, or grilled at sidewalk stands. Banana leaves are used to steam curries or wrap grilled meats. And the purple banana flower is made into delicious salads and soups.

But there’s another reason for the name, as well. As you may have guessed from its sound, the word does not derive from Dutch. Instead, its origins are in the Malay word ‘pisang’. In the Seventeeth Century, the Dutch brought over a mixed community of people from Malaysia and Indonesia. Along with a flourishing culture that developed into the community known in South Africa today as the Cape Malay, they left behind many words and fragments (like pisang/piesang) that dot the Afrikaans language, revealing its composite cultural origins, and a distant connection between South Africa and the lands across the Indian Ocean. Three centuries later, we’re riding those trade winds again, bringing a little bit of Southeast Asia with us to South Africa.

The dream of opening a café is still a long way off, but we’ll be getting our start on a smaller scale over this weekend. On Saturday, April 25th, we’ll be opening a stand at the Neighbourgoods Market, (which I detailed in my last post), where we’ll be offering a small limited menu of tangy salads, complexly flavored baguette sandwiches, and delicate salad rolls. We hope to change and expand our menu regularly, giving us the freedom to flow with the seasons, experiment with different dishes, and introduce willing diners to a wide range of Southeast Asian flavors.

So if you’re in Cape Town, stop by—we’d love to see you there! For those of you not in Cape Town, check out our progress on the Piesang Blog.

20 comments:

A Girl in Asia said...

How exciting! Congrats and hope you get lots of customers!

Rey said...

Goodluck to have costumers...

Amazing Place..


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vegeyum said...

fabulous idea = lots of luck.

Robyn said...

I knew it! Fantastic, best of luck. If you need help sourcing any ingredients, send an email.

idealmonkey said...

God, I wish you lived in Russian Moscow! After 6 months of living in Thailand I miss real-real-real food!
Let the force be with you, and good luck :)

Heather Moore said...

How very exciting ! I'll do my best to pop in on Saturday, although generally it's really impossible to leave my stall. I'll try very hard though! Adored the food in Thailand too. xx

jen laceda said...

X, I am so excited for you. I hope when I get my ass over to South Africa I'll be able to taste your sumptuous offerings! Will check your other blog. So, are you and Bordeaux doing all the preparing and cooking?

What a lovely word, Piesang. Another thing about bananas...they never grow alone...

We're all here supporting you!!!

Freshly Found said...

So much lovely Cape-ish-ness has appeared on your blog since I last popped in! Great news about Piesang. Wish I was in the Cape to try it out. All the best for your dream! What a good idea to start out this way. I know of quite a few successful businesses which started out at Sat morning markets. Neighbourgoods is such a fantastic place to be too!

kristine said...

i saw your heading and thought 'piesang'....as in Indonesian Pisang?? And indeed as you explain that's exactly it. Good luck!! Sounds like an exciting venture. How do you get your vertical photos so nice and big, by the way (I love that one especially!)?

Wendy said...

Excellent. All the best with your new venture.

Candace said...

Mazal Tov!

jess gonacha said...

congratulations to you both! that's really exciting news! i wish i could come check it out and meet you in person-- i hope it's a smashing success!

Heather Moore said...

Hope your first day was a good one. I wasn't able to leave my stall, but sent Paul on a reconnaisance mission. He returned disappointingly short on details, so I'll be back to see for myself soon.

Prêt à Voyager said...

so exciting! i wish i knew other people living over there so i could send them your way! can't wait to see more about your project as it unfolds...

best wishes!
anne

Yoli said...

I am so thrilled for you guys!!!!! I wish you the best and I am sure it is going to be a huge success!

Nik Daum said...

I hope to dine there some day. Best of luck.

Lara Dunston said...

What a fantastic idea! Good luck! Will watch with fascination and enthusiasm! Good on you!

Noor Ashraaf said...

In Malaysia, the spelling would be PISANG.

annamatic said...

wow, awesome idea! good luck, and i hope to one day run across your Piesang cafe in my travels!

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