Soweto town­ship cel­e­brates iconic street snack

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Flavours -

SOUTH Africa’s kota is a tasty, in­ex­pen­sive and uniquely homegrown street sand­wich cre­ated out of the bit­ter­ness of apartheid and which still has a spe­cial place in the hearts of many. Its name is pid­gin for quar­ter -- this case, a quar­ter of a loaf of bread, which forms the base of the sand­wich that can be found along most streets in Jo­han­nes­burg’s town­ship of Soweto. The quar­ter loaf is hol­lowed out and then filled with lay­ers of all sorts -- potato fries, fried egg, baloney, Frank­furter, and spicy pick­les.

Un­der the warm spring sun, hun­dreds of peo­ple thronged a Soweto town­ship square at the week­end to pay homage to the cel­e­brated snack. “We are here to cel­e­brate town­ship food,” said fes­ti­val or­gan­iser Sid­well Tshingi­lane, stand­ing by dozens of stalls where chefs stood be­hind piles of fill­ings as pa­tient cus­tomers queued up for the snack. “Kota is born in the town­ship. We grew up eat­ing kota. It’s one of the street foods that is pop­u­lar like a burger in Amer­ica. We nor­mally call it our lo­cal burger,” Tshingi­lane said.

“Some peo­ple say it’s pop­u­lar like the brand Madiba,” he said, re­fer­ring to the coun­try’s much-loved an­ti­a­partheid icon Nel­son Man­dela. “It’s af­ford­able, peo­ple in town­ships some­times don’t af­ford those fancy foods. So in­stead of go­ing to McDon­ald’s, they go to a kota out­let.” The two-day kota fes­ti­val was held in the same Soweto square where the Free­dom Char­ter -- a doc­u­ment de­mand­ing equal rights to ed­u­ca­tion, work, wealth and a de­cent liv­ing -- was adopted by anti-apartheid groups in 1955.

The se­cond an­nual fes­ti­val came just days af­ter the coun­try was cleared of a lis­te­ria out­break which claimed 216 lives and sick­ened more than 1,000 since early 2017. The lis­te­rio­sis bac­te­ria con­tam­i­nated a pop­u­lar range of meats in­clud­ing the sausages of­ten used in the kota fill­ing. Kota ven­dors recorded a drop in sales of up to 40 per­cent dur­ing the out­break, which the United Na­tions be­lieved was the largest ever world­wide. But for some, the out­break made lit­tle dif­fer­ence.

“Lis­te­rio­sis did not ex­ist in our world, we con­tin­ued eat­ing,” said Nthabiseng Matl­hare, a 30-year-old tour con­sul­tant. “This is our tra­di­tion, we grew up with this vibe,” she said, tuck­ing into a kota filled with chicken strips, chips, spinach and topped with stewed chicken feet. A few steps away chef Mo­gau Ta­bane of Rock­town Deli ex­plains the evo­lu­tion of the kota, with new and un­com­mon in­gre­di­ents such as mushroom and straw­berry now find­ing their way into the mix. “It’s one of our her­itage prod­ucts. It’s South Africa’s favourite. From chil­dren to adults, ev­ery­body eats kota,” he said.

The kota ac­tu­ally comes in var­i­ous names and fill­ings de­pend­ing on lo­ca­tion but is be­lieved to have orig­i­nated in the 1960s as non-white South Africans tried to get around the rigours of apartheid. Food an­thro­pol­o­gist Anna Trapido be­lieves its ori­gin is steeped in the his­tory of the coun­try where non-whites were not al­lowed in restau­rants or were for­bid­den from us­ing plates or forks and knives. “There was need to find a ve­hi­cle in which to take away food,” said Trapido, emerg­ing as a “uniquely South African so­lu­tion to a uniquely South African is­sue”.– Re­laxnews

AFP photo

A street ven­dor pre­pares a ‘Kota’ sand­wich dur­ing the Kota Fes­ti­val at Klip­town in Soweto.–

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