Food plays an important role in the community life of the Cape Malay. The Javanese have always believed that it is not enough to simply provide your guests with good food; you must do more than that. You must entertain them with good conversation and make them feel welcome and appreciated.
When a Moslem invites guests over for a meal, he almost prepares a feast or niyyat. The guests take the leftover food home in serviettes. In contrast to western culture, this is not considered rude. The Moslems believe that after the niyyat, the food no longer belongs to the host, but to the guests
Before every meal the Bismallah is recited, which means "In the name of Allah." According to tradition, the host helps himself first, followed by the older male guests. With the exception of soup and certain desserts, all food is eaten with the fingers of the right hand only so that the palm of the hand never gets dirty. Food may not be brought to the mouth in the left hand because the left hand cleans the other body openings.
After a community festival, the leftover food is taken to Old Age Homes and Children's Homes or dealt out to the poor. In the most Cape Malay households the main meal is served in the evening when the head of the household is present. Fridays are the exception, for the men attend the Mosque for the compulsory Jumuah prayer meeting.
Sunday lunches are also important family gatherings. If friends should arrive during the meal, they are invited to share in the meal. The Moslems believe that anybody outside of the immediate family who enjoys a meal with the host is blessed (called barakat). There should always be enough food for unexpected guests and it is very embarrassing when there isn't enough.
The meals are not served in their respected courses; all the courses are laid out simultaneously on the table. Everyone decides for himself/herself what he or she chooses to eat first. The lady of the household seldom sits at the table. She sees to everyone's comfort.
A good Malay cook is known as a modji-cook. She enjoys a high standing in the community and is often asked to cater at weddings and funerals. She alone receives all the credit. The modji-cook is never paid for her effort, but if she should ever need a favor from anyone who has "employed her", she is always granted that favor. This is known as kanala which is synonymous to the word "please".
Malays have one typical dish - curry, even on hot days. They believe that curry eaten on a hot day, helps to cool the body. In the days of District Six, many people from the city and well-known visitors from overseas, made the excursion into the area to sample the curry at Mr. Kathrada's Crescent Cafe in Hanover Street. Bobotie & minced meat cooked with brown sugar, apricots and raisins is also very popular. Koeksisters - luscious spiced doughnuts, dipped in syrup and rolled in desiccated coconut - are still a Sunday morning refreshment among the Malays.