Old rice, new rice…
- Ever pondered the vintage of your beloved Basmati rice?
A visit to the legendary Atlas Trading Company in the Bo-Kaap exposes my previously blissful ignorance.
- My foodie friend and I waltz into the shop each nibbling on a hot, fragrant samoosa from the café next door. (In retrospect, not cool, as it was late afternoon during Ramadan and everybody else would have been fasting… sorry!)
- We spend a few minutes gaping at the fresh curry leaves, veggies, countless packets of spices, religious books and natural beauty products before the staff suggest that I speak to the owner to find out more about the shop. After apologising to the kind gentleman whom I’d wrongly cornered and started questioning, we meet Wahab Ahmed, the second generation owner who gives us an educational tour of his spice paradise.
- There are numerous wooden storage units filled with colourful, freshly ground spices, all kinds of beans and lentils, different types of flour and an assortment of rice varieties. He invites us to taste their special 12-spice Masala mix, which is wonderfully aromatic. It is a bit of a “hoes & proes” tasting though, as they import most of their spices whole and then ground it at the premises to ensure authenticity and PUNGENCY.
- Wahab’s knowledge of his products is obvious and he takes his cue when the term ‘young rice’ makes us lift our brows. “You shouldn’t cook with young rice” he explains, “it is mushy”. He proceeds to take out a bag of the 2008 crop Basmati rice which they stock in the shop. The older, the better, it would seem – and you definitely won’t find rice younger than two years in his pantry.
- We spend about half an hour smelling, tasting, touching while the soft-spoken Wahab patiently answers all our questions. We’re hooked!
- Suggestion: For all things spice head off to Atlas Trading, but set aside enough time to pop in at the café next door for fresh samoosas, home-made rotis and Malay koesisters, take a stroll around the brightly-coloured rows of houses and visit the Bo-Kaap Museum right across the road.
Food for thought: Rice from a supermarket shelf is not necessarily all it’s cooked up to be …
- Contact details: Atlas Trading, 94 Wale Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town
Tel: +27 (0) 21 423 4361