Braaibroodjie Is Like A Grilled Cheese Sandwich But With More Flavor

South African braaibroodjie sandwich
South African braaibroodjie sandwich - Thao Lan/Shutterstock

Of all the South African foods you probably haven't tried yet, the braaibroodjie sandwich should be high on your list to track down. The word may seem like a lot of letters thrown together in a strange way, so let's break it down to try and understand the sandwich a little more. Braai is the Afrikaans word for barbecue or cookout, and broodjie (derived from the Dutch word broodje) means sandwich. Now that you understand that it's basically a South African barbecue sandwich, your first mental comparisons might be pulled pork or smoked brisket sandwiches. Actually, braaibroodjie are closer to the humble grilled cheese sandwich, just with way more flavor and fanfare.

To be an authentic braaibroodjie, the sandwich must not stray from two fundamental elements: the basic ingredients and the cooking method. Traditional ingredients for braaibroodjie include white bread, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, onions, and chutney (specifically Mrs. Balls brand). To cook these South African grilled cheeses, they must be grilled as opposed to griddled, and the process typically gets done over coals in the backyard alongside the rest of the typical braai meats. The braaimaster will butter the outsides of the braaibroodjie, seal them in a grill basket, and constantly rotate the sandwiches over radiant coals so the bread doesn't burn. The result is a hot, crispy sandwich with gooey cheese, tangy chutney, and sweet vegetables to balance everything out.

Read more: 41 Must Try Hot Sandwich Recipes

The History Of The Braaibroodjie

coals burning in a fire pit
coals burning in a fire pit - Richard van der Spuy/Shutterstock

Braaibroodjie are synonymous with South African braai culture. Americans are no strangers to summertime grilling or backyard cookouts, but for South Africans it's a national passion. A braai should only use local wood or charcoal as the fuel for cooking instead of gas. Some examples of wood they might use are slow-burning kameeldoring wood, or wingerd wood, which imparts great aroma. These key braai ingredients give the food that they cook — including the sandwiches — their own distinct flavors, which can only be enjoyed in South Africa.

While the exact origin of the modern braaibroodjie is lost to history, it has come to be enjoyed primarily as a simple sandwich toasted over fire. Whether it's dough wrapped on a stick and baked, or a sandwich with cheese, tomatoes, onions, and chutney grilled over coals, these sandwiches are meant to be enjoyed outdoors at cookouts and campfires, and are always cooked at the end when the meat and vegetables are almost ready to be served. Braaibroodjie purists might be quick to argue that these sandwiches can only contain the traditional ingredients mentioned above, but the fact that they're grilled over fire makes them highly versatile for all kinds of ingredients you can think of putting in a hot sandwich.

Variations On The Braaibroodjie

variety of different cheeses
variety of different cheeses - Aninka Bongers-Sutherland/Shutterstock

At the end of the day, not everybody has the same tastes. If braai are about many people coming together and celebrating all things grilling, inevitably there are going to be some guests who don't love the traditional braaibroodjie fillings. Moreover, seasoned braai hosts may want to develop their own signature braaibroodjie variations over time to showcase their creativity to their guests.

So what kinds of combinations work best for this South African grilled cheese? While the standard braaibroodjie doesn't contain any meat, it would undoubtedly go great in this sandwich. And since these are typically eaten at barbecues, whatever meat is being used already can be repurposed into the braaibroodjie. When using meat, though, make sure that it's cooked or shelf stable like spam, since raw meat won't cook during the sandwich toasting process.

There's also room for experimentation with other fatty and acidic ingredients. Besides basic cheddar, flavorful cheeses like Gruyère, Camembert, or blue cheese can be sprinkled in for depth and structure. Different jams and marmalades, such as onion, apricot, or pineapple can also be substituted for chutney to add a new dimension to the sandwich while still providing sweetness and acidity to balance the richness. And finally, fans of heat would certainly welcome pickled peppers, chili sauce, or simple hot mustard in their braaibroodjie. The sandwich is your canvas, so don't be afraid to paint with many different colors; just make sure that you grill it the South African way.

Read the original article on Mashed.