Kota of South Africa is a tasty, cheap and unique homegrown street sandwich created from the bitterness of apartheid and which still has a special place in the hearts of many.
The name is pidgin for quarter – this case, a quarter of a bread that forms the basis of the sandwich that can be found along most streets in Johannesburg township Soweto.
The quarter bread has been hollowed out and then filled with all kinds of layers – potato fries, fried eggs, nonsense, Frankfurter and spicy pickles.
Under the warm spring sun, hundreds of people gathered at a weekend in Soweto township square to pay tribute to the celebrated snack.
"We are here to celebrate township dishes," said festival organizer Sidwell Tshingilane, who stood at dozens of stalls where chefs stood behind stacks of fillings while patients queued up for the snack.
"Kota is born in the township, we grew up eating kota, it is one of the street food products that is popular as a citizen in America, we normally call it our local citizen," said Tshingilane.
"Some people say it's popular like the Madiba brand," he said, referring to the beloved anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.
"It's affordable, people in townships sometimes do not pay those fancy foods, so instead of going to McDonald's, they go to a Kota outlet."
– Affordable and delicious –
The two-day kota festival was held on the same Soweto square, where the Freedom Charter – a document that demands equal rights to education, work, wealth and a decent existence – was adopted by anti-apartheid groups in 1955.
The second annual festival came just a few days after the country was acquitted of a listeria outbreak that claimed 216 lives and more than 1,000 since the beginning of 2017 has become sick.
The listeriosis bacteria contaminated a popular range of meat products, including the sausages often used in the kota filling.
Kota vendors recorded a sales decline of up to 40 percent during the outbreak, of which the United Nations believed that it was the largest ever worldwide.
But for some, the outbreak made little difference.
"Listeriosis did not exist in our world, we continued to eat," said Nthabiseng Matlhare, a 30-year-old tour consultant.
"This is our tradition, we grew up with this atmosphere," she said and she stopped in a kota filled with chicken strips, crisps, spinach and topped with stewed chicken legs.
At a stone's throw, chef Mogau Tabane from Rocktown Deli explains the evolution of the kota, where new and unusual ingredients such as mushrooms and strawberries find their way into the mix.
"It is one of our heritage products, the favorite of South Africa, from children to adults everyone eats kota," he said.
– & # 39; Unique solution for a unique problem & # 39; –
The Kota actually comes in different names and fillings, depending on the location, but is believed to have originated in the 1960s when non-white South Africans tried to get around the rigors of apartheid.
Anthrapologist Anna Trapido, of food, believes that its origins are steeped in the history of the country where non-whites were not allowed in restaurants or that it was forbidden to use plates or forks and knives.
"There was a need for a vehicle to remove food," Trapido said, emerging as a "unique South African solution to a unique South African problem".
Traditionally high in carbohydrates and with the most filling prepared in oil, the snack has doctors who worry about obesity and related diseases.
"We see more children with type 2 diabetes … more children with high blood pressure, and when they are left untreated, they end up with kidney disease," said dietitian Mpho Tshukudu.
Concern about health, the Kota is seen as a worthy newcomer on the list of South African cuisine.
The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Elizabeth Thabethe, suggested that the "typical township" could help promote tourism, because it offers "a peculiar taste".
"Good food, they (tourists) can experience it in their own country, but they (kota) can not get them in their own country," she told AFP after trying out the offer at the festival.
© 2018 AFP