Ba-bo-tea… No, It’s Not Tea!

Image of prepared bobotie to go with the recipe I share.

Bobotie — pronounced ba-bo-tea — is a dish I have eaten countless times in my life, having grown up in South Africa. South Africans love their ‘braai’ (BBQ) and actually that should be the national dish of the country, but while I grew up, it was bobotie.

It’s said that this mince-based sweet curry dish baked with an egg-based topping originates from the South African Cape Malay community, adapted by them when it was imported to South Africa from Indonesia. The word ‘bobotie’ comes from the Indonesian ‘bobotok’ or ‘botok’, which is a dish cooked in a banana leaf and made of coconut flesh, vegetables and occasionally meat.

The earliest recording of bobotie is in 1609, in a Dutch cookbook.

My father was the one who mostly cooked when I grew up, and bobotie was frequently on the menu. When I make it — and I don’t do that nearly enough — I have to use my traditional South African cookbook and follow the steps from there, but my father (and my mom when she cooked) could make it without even looking at the book.

When we invite people over for dinner for the first time, most times I make bobotie, and I am yet to come across someone who says they don’t like it.

Without further ado, the recipe!

Traditional South African Bobotie


1 kg (2.2 lbs) mince meat (traditionally lamb or beef)
2 onions
1 slice bread white, crusts removed
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tbsp curry powder
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper black
1/2 tsp tumeric
2 tsps vinegar
1/2 cup raisins seedless
3 tbsp chutney for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C)
  2. Dice onions, and sauté until light brown. Add the mince meat and fry together with the onions until well incorporated and cooked through.
  3. Soak the bread in the milk, then squeeze the milk out. Keep the milk for later.
  4. Mix all ingredients together, leaving out 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk and the bay leaves and chutney.
  5. Transfer mixture to an oven dish.
  6. Mix the leftover egg and milk together, and pour over the meat mixture.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes.
  8. Serve with rice and chutney on the side.



If you search the Internet for recipes of bobotie, you will find a lot of different versions, some of them with garlic, and many with different fruits. I love the traditional one, and will probably try none of the others, but maybe you want to experiment and adjust the meaty part of the dish to your own taste.
If you use more curry to make the dish spicier, then also add coconut and banana on the side. These two go so well with curry dishes, just as chutney does!

9 thoughts on “Ba-bo-tea… No, It’s Not Tea!

    1. Oh please let me know when you have made it. Would love to hear if you like it 🙂 xox

  1. I adore Bobotie, I was told about it by a South African bus driver and its become a firm favourite. He told me about Bridie (I may have spelled it incorrectly) and I love that too. Do you have any other SA recipes that compare? N xx

    1. I think it’s ‘bredie’ and yes, that is delicious too. I should really make that again. I will soon share another SA recipe, and am planning to share several more xox

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