S Africa’s Soweto township celebrates iconic street snack
Soweto, South Africa - 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, Frankfurter and spicy pickles.
Under the warm spring sun, hundreds of people thronged a Soweto township square 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 anti-apartheid 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.