Ishay Govender – House & Leisure Magazine
This spice-loving Cape Town travel, food and culture blogger keeps sriracha on hand for ‘flavour emergencies.’ Ishay Govender-Ypma. For House and Leisure Magazine, August 2014.
Her background might be in commercial law but wanderlust and a deep love of food led Ishay Govender-Ypma to turn these affections into a full-time occupation. The Cape Town-based cook and writer had not been producing her blog, the aptly titled Food and the Fabulous, for long before winning Best Food and Wine Blog at the 2011 SA Blog Awards. It’s not just foreign locales that inspire her but rather delving into the heart of a place and its people.
“Travelling to eat and to immerse myself in other cultures has been essential to my own education and personal growth,’ she says. ‘I don’t think I could be satisfied eating goi cuon (Vietnamese crystal spring rolls) without ever having eaten them in Vietnam and Cambodia or learning how to make them there. You make these vital cultural connections when you learn from or eat with the people who invented the recipe. It’s a cultural exchange that is at the heart of my ethos.’
What tastes remind you of childhood?
Plump Natal litchis, fireball jawbreakers, curry leaves and loquats. I was born in Durban.
What’s always in your pantry?
An ever-growing spice library, coconut and olive oils, canned tomatoes, garlic and chocolate.
What should every kitchen have?
A cook who leaves fear at the door. Good saucepans. can’t live without? Love and something good to read.
If you were a drink what would it be?
If there’s an intriguing combination with chilli, ginger, lemon grass or tamarind in a pretty glass – that’s probably me. I love living on the spice side of life.
What’s for supper tonight?
A slowcooked lamb and preserved-lemon stew.
Current favourite restaurant?
The Pot Luck Club in Cape Town – every plate is a delight – and Gastón Acurio’s Astrid y Gastón in Lima, Peru.
Do you have any culinary vices?
I always bring back boxes of unusual native ingredients from travels. Then I have to deal with the expiry dates and having to host all the dinner parties for friends that I conjure up in my mind when I’m buying the stuff.
Your most used recipe book?
Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey and Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi – I always adapt recipes from both.
Favourite sandwich filling?
Roast chicken, bacon, lettuce.
Your ultimate breakfast is…
one you can have later in the day, preferably at noon– eggs, good bread and butter, raspberry preserve and thick Greek yoghurt, pancakes with lemon, fresh orange juice, some herbaltea and, in an ideal world, a nap after it all.
Weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
I don’t think anything is too strange but I won’t purposefully eat something if I know there are ethical issues or it’s endangered. I’ve eaten tarantulas in Cambodia – deep fried with a tangy chilli sauce. It’s similar to soft-shell crab, really.
Who are your foodie icons?
I admire Michael Pollan for all the good work he is doing. Anthony Bourdain is very love to hate… he’s got that American macho persona that riles many a feminist the wrong way but sometimes he asks the right questions, touches the right nerve. He made South Africans uncomfortable with his take on Joburg and yet he was willing to share the negative things that need a bit of a shake-up. I’m a fan of the critical thinkers more than the cheerleaders.
What’s your signature dish?
For a while it was my south Indian crab curry.
What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream?
Mascarpone orange blossom.
Food aroma you love?
The following ingredients toasting: cumin seeds and almonds, and freshly popped popcorn. Impossible to resist.
Biggest culinary influence?
Nigella Lawson’s handbag – she keeps sunscreen and a tube of mustard. I’m no Nigella but I try to prepare for flavour emergencies, too. Sriracha, in my case.
Favourite luxury ingredient?
Eating well has become a luxury. Every day I’m grateful for a fully stocked fridge.