The idea of ​​opening Amawele’s Cuisine only came about when they moved to the United States. In South Africa they had both worked in finance and loved to travel. Their original plan was to move to the US for a year or two, but on arrival they saw the business opportunity and decided to stay. As they worked to get jobs to make ends meet, they held fast to the fact that something bigger and better was going their way.

When South Africa was hosting the 2010 World Cup, Pam and Wendy started planning a party with friends. They quickly discovered that there were no South African restaurants in San Francisco that could deliver food for the party. Without hesitation, they decided to prepare their favorite dishes, and indeed, their flavorful, flavorful meals were a hit. The next day, her friends encouraged her to open a restaurant.

Pam and Wendy with a friend at the 2010 World Cup party.

But Amawele’s Cuisine didn’t come into existence overnight – it actually took almost three years to finally open. Meanwhile, Pam and Wendy marketed their business while driving ridesharing, saving money by working as nannies, and eventually borrowing $ 100,000 on credit cards. Although they had friends to support them, the reality of two black immigrant women starting a business in San Francisco was challenging. “People didn’t look at us and say, ‘Oh, I see success in you.’ It was a little hard, ”says Pam. “It wasn’t like they just said, ‘Oh, yeah, they’re going to just sign the lease. Go in. ‘ We had to beg and beg a lot. “

Pam and Wendy in 2012 in Las Vegas for the Rugby 7’s.

In May 2013, Amawele’s Cuisine finally opened its doors in the Financial District of the Rincon Center in San Francisco. As in most restaurants, the first few days were a struggle. “We went home and literally cried ourselves to sleep,” says Pam. “We thought: ‘What did we do?'”

Pam and Wendy at Amawele’s Cuisine.
Pam and Wendy with their mother and brother at the bricks and mortars of Amawele.

Thankfully, the end of the week changed when customers fluttered in. Some customers struggled to understand the dishes and even asked if the restaurant had ever served exotic dishes such as ostrich eggs or crocodile meat. “I’ve never had a bouquet in my life, so I won’t sell anything I don’t know,” says Pam. “And again, it’s not your typical South African dish, it’s not. So there was a lot of education about … South African cuisine. ”

One of the most popular dishes at Amawele’s is Bunny Chow, a cross-cultural dish from English, Indian and Zulu cuisine. Bunny Chow is a hollowed out quarter loaf of sweet white bread filled with chicken, vegetable, lamb or beef curry, served with pickled carrots to soften the spiciness. The name “Bunny” is another word for Bania, an Indian merchant caste who used white bread as bowls to transport their curries.

At first the twins were against putting it on the menu; They just couldn’t imagine seeing men in suits in bunny chow. So they presented it to guests like a soup bowl and it soon became their favorite item on the menu.

Preparation of the bunny chow. (Cecilia Phillips / KQED)
The Plated Bunny Chow (Cecilia Phillips / KQED)

Another bestseller is Cape Malay Rice, a popular Cape Malay dish in Cape Town, South Africa. The rice, bright yellow from the turmeric, and prepared with curry, cinnamon and vegetables. They like to call it a type of biryani rice – familiar, but with a different taste.