It’s been said that if you don’t know how to make pap, you’re not a true South African. Whether it is true or not, mealie meal is part of many households. Mealie meal is an affordable and readily available grain that has been feeding South Africans for decades.
It has become an integral part of South African cuisine, it’s also become a symbol of the country’s cultural heritage. This simple item has provided nourishment and comfort to countless people for centuries.
According to Zama Khumalo, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (Adsa), mealie meal or maize meal is a staple food item in most households in South Africa. It has various uses, such as being consumed as a breakfast porridge in the morning or as a main starch like pap/uphuthu during lunch and supper meals.
She points out that consuming mealie meals in appropriate quantities can have significant health benefits.
The main benefit of this food is being a rich source of carbohydrates, which the body relies on as its primary source of energy, Khumalo explains.
For the body to function properly daily, it requires energy. Mealie meal is a great source of energy that can provide the body with a substantial amount, she says.
It is also one of the few gluten-free starches or carbohydrate sources available to the general population that is also extremely affordable and may be utilised in diets for persons with gluten sensitivity or other kinds of irritable bowel illness that produces gluten intolerance, explains Khumalo.
“In South Africa, mealie meal is fortified with several vitamins and minerals, including iron, folic acid and vitamin A, to help fight the prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in the country.”
Amazing benefits, but take care
Khumalo tells Health For Mzansi that mealie meal contains a wide range of nutrients that can be beneficial for overall health and immunity. These nutrients include vitamins A, B, and C, as well as minerals like iron and zinc. The fortification of mealie meals with these nutrients is regulated by the R504 Regulations, which aim to ensure that the food is nutritious and safe to eat.
“Since mealie meal is a starch item, it also contains a significant amount of carbohydrates as a macronutrient. Surprisingly enough, a small serving of ½ cup of mealie meal can provide about 3g of protein as well.”
Khumalo points out that some people think that cutting out all carbohydrates, including mealie meal, is the best way to lose weight. However, she argues that you can achieve the same result by simply reducing the size of your mealie-meal portions.
She notes that consuming large amounts of meal meals may cause some problems, especially for people with diabetes or constipation. Since mealie meal lacks fibre, it has a higher glycaemic index, which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Those with constipation may also experience worsening symptoms and may even develop haemorrhoids due to a lack of fibre. Thus, it’s important to consume mealie meal in moderation.
What are some nutritious and tasty mealie-meal dish pairs?
Khumalo says mealie meal can be used as a breakfast porridge in the morning – add a teaspoon of peanut butter for extra protein or a teaspoon of margarine for extra fat and creaminess.
Mealie meal can also be used as a braai side in the form of pap – many people often add cooked vegetables or grated cheese to their pap for extra flavour and colour.
Mealie meal can be enjoyed in its crumbly form (referred to as uphuthu) with a delicious stew, curry or even with some leafy greens such as spinach or cabbage.
Making it the star of the plate
Meanwhile, celebrity chef Siphokazi Mdlankomo states that she has prepared mealie meals a thousand times in her life and it go with everything, making it a versatile item.
She recommends serving stiff pap with a fried egg, fried/grilled cherry tomatoes, fried mushroom, and spinach on the side.
Alternatively, you can have pap with pork or fish, beets and carrots, or blanched asparagus with robot peppers or cabbage.
A basic and light dinner would be umphokoqo/uphuthu/dry pap, paired with amasi or milk, and voila!
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Umphokoqo recipe - by Siphokazi Mdlankomo
- 2 cups water
- 3 cups maize meal
- 1 tbsp salt
– Bring water to a boil in a pot, with salt.
– Add the maize meal in a continuous stream and mix with a fork.
– Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot, and simmer, stirring regularly, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the consistency of fine breadcrumbs is achieved.
– Reduce the heat after adding the maize.
TIP: The perfect way to master the perfect umphokoqo is for the quantity of liquid should be smaller than the quantity of maize.
Serves five people.