Anu Sing is a third-generation South African Indian. She moved to Johannesburg from KwaZulu Natal almost 20 years ago. A former investment banker, and now consultant she is passionate about Indian food. This is her guide to Indian Johannesburg
A BRIEF HISTORY OF INDIANS IN SOUTH AFRICAIndian people first came to South Africa as indentured labour in 1860 to work in the sugar plantations in Natal, and later as 'free' or 'passenger' Indians seeking new opportunities abroad. Many became traders. After serving their indentures they were allowed to remain in South Africa or return to India. The majority remained, while the ‘allowed’ immigration of ‘free’ Indians stopped in 1914. Indian people in South Africa speak several languages including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Punjabi, and Gujarati however these days English is the main language for a vast majority. All the major Hindu and Muslim prayers and festivities are celebrated at various locations around Johannesburg.
For most of the 20th and 21st centuries, South Africa was known to have the largest population of Indians outside of India. The film Gandhi gives some insights into the history of Indians in South Africa. While the areas of Fordsburg, Mayfair and Lenasia (a township south of the city), have a concentration of Indian people, these days Joburg’s Indian population is spread throughout the city’s suburbs.
TOP 10 INDIAN JOBURG1. BUKHARA
With the welcoming buzz of an Indian family home (weekday lunchtimes are the busiest times), this restaurant in the upmarket Nelson Mandela Square will transport you to Northern India for delicious curries and tandoor dishes (the malai salmon is a must).
2. CURRY 'N ALL
Known for its bunny chow (a cheap meal consisting of a hollowed-out portion of a loaf of bread filled with curry), rumoured to have originated in Durban in the 1940s. This takeaway spot in central Sandton specialises in a limited range of delicious traditional Durban Indian curries sold separately, in traditional roti rolls, in bunny chows and biriyanis. The food is delicious, prices are low and portions huge. Limited seating available on makeshift benches and tables. All food is freshly prepared once daily and the queues are long so arrive before midday.
3. SIMPLY DIVINE
This is a pure vegetarian restaurant in the Randburg suburbs. Expect a warm welcome from a pleasant mother and son team (Bhaiya and his mum). Curries vary daily but the signature dish, butter paneer, features daily and is truly sublime. Also try the Punjabi samoosas and paneer pies.
4. BAPS SHAYONAS
A pure Sattvic (yoga) vegetarian restaurant, deli and spice shop. Shayona’s is the catering arm of the Swaminarayan Temple in Mayfair and supports the Swaminarayan Hindu charities that focus on disadvantaged communities. All products are manufactured by a group of dedicated volunteers. The restaurant is abuzz with Indians and locals enjoying delicious thalis, Indian street food (chaat), sweetmeats and people stocking up on spices and frozen food imports from India. The marsala dosa is the best in town. Weekends are very busy but still the best time to go.
5. HANOVER BAKERY
A market atmosphere at any time of day and full of patrons of the busy Indian and Middle Eastern neighbourhood of Mayfair, select from a delectable array of freshly baked naan breads (and aniseed breads known only to South African Indians), Indian savouries, pastries and biscuits. The caramel loaf is their signature bread and well worth a try.
6. SOUTH AFRICAN SCHOOL OF YOGA
Situated in the tranquil upmarket suburb of Hyde Park is this Satyananda (the Bihar Yoga System) yoga school that offers the opportunity to not only attend yoga and spiritual classes but also be involved in their charities and do ‘yoga’ seva (selfless service). The school also arranges yoga retreats to India. 42 Morsim Rd, Hyde Park, Tel. +27 11 327 0073
7. SATYAGRAHA HOUSE
Visit the Johannesburg home of one of the most revered Indians and citizens of the world, Mahatma Gandhi. Visit the museum and enjoy the peacefulness of the surroundings with a cup of chai under the old Pride of India in the courtyard, or with some yoga.
8. SHALIMAR DELIGHTS
A feast for the eyes of exquisitely prepared and delicious sweetmeats made using traditional butter ghee and milk and lots of patience on a busy corner in Fordsburg.
9. THE JOHANNESBURG MELROSE SHREE SIVA SUBRAMANAIR TEMPLE
Visit one of the oldest temples in Johannesburg which was founded by the Tamil workers at the Melrose Laundry around 1870. Following renovations in 1996 and 2011, the Temple that began as a shack is now an impressive architectural specimen attracting thousands of devotees of Lord Muruga and his consorts. A strict dress code applies. 2nd St, Melrose, Tel. +27 11 728 6590
10. THE ORIENTAL PLAZA
A monument to the resistance against being moved out of the Fordsburg area during the apartheid years and featured in the movie Material, the Oriental Plaza is a labyrinth of shops where cheap and cheerful wares of ranging from clothing to spices can be purchased.