There are popular foods that are part of the identity of an area, province or country, and in South Africa kotas are part of the fare in townships across the country. The quarter loaf, cut diagonally and filled with slap chips, Russian sausages, polony and sauces with a small slice of bread on top has evolved in recent years.

There are many theories on the origins of kota. Nkukhu Box manager Kagiso Mashiane said the name was a derivate of the English word "quarter", referring to the bread loaf. As such, the term could apply to any dish using a quarter loaf of bread, such as bunny chow. "Americans have hot dogs, Mexicans have nachos, Japanese have sushi, we in South Africa have the kota," Mashiane said.

There is a difference between bunny chow and kota: the former uses about half the loaf cut up inside to create space for a filling which is usually Indian curry. Mashiane said the kota may have been inspired by this: "The origins of the kota is widely traced to Durban within the Indian communities, popularly known as bunny chow. "White bread was the only bread available with which Indian immigrants could eat their curries. Bunny chow is in Durban's DNA. It's been a classic dish in the city since the '40s, but how it came to be is shrouded in mystery."

#Heritagemonth: Meet SA's kota culture


Get in my belly. SA's Kota culture has deep roots. Picture: Supplied

Soweto Kota Festival organiser Sidwell Tshingilane has done research on the kota, which has become so popular that it's sold on many street corners in the townships. He has a different view on the origins: "We think the origins of the kota was Orlando East, (Soweto) around 1959 into the early 1960s. "It was first known as the 'township sandwich' or 'township burger' because the ingredients are affordable and people wanted to replicate the traditional burger and make it their own."

Popular chef Lesego Semen known as LesDaChef, also weighed in: "To a lot of people the idea of a kota revolves around having greasy processed ingredients, but the origins are quite different. "Originally kotas were filled with chicken feet and other similar cheap cuts of meat. It was only in the 1990s when the modern version of kotas began making inroads in townships." There are many variations on the "original", which is filled with slap chips, polony, Russians sausages and sauces. Many businesses have capitalised on kotas' popularity. In 2016,

#Heritagemonth: Meet SA's kota culture


Nkukhu Box was born to fill a gap in the market with a franchise focusing on cultural foods in the townships.

. "Nkukhu Box store concept is made from specially designed shipping containers, making it affordable to purchase.It's a movable store developed to save on setup cost thus increasing chances of business survival, Mashiane said. The concept is to have franchises across townships to avoid shopping centre operational costs, no long-term binding lease contracts or expensive rentals. "The kotas at our restaurants have become very popular. We refer to them as private school kotas. These are the top of the range kotas, prepared by our well-trained staff and chefs. Desite the impact of the lockdown they opened three stores this year, including the group's first Halaal store. The kotas have cheeky names like Cheese Boy Kota, Boss Zonke and The Hot 1.

#Heritagemonth: Meet SA's kota culture


Fancy Kota. Picture: Supplied.

Another entrepreneur, Winile Ngwenya, started her business Winnie's Kitchen in Tembisa about five years ago. She started it to feed her family and create generational wealth. Her daughter, Buhle Ngwenya, who assists her, said their most popular kota was The Noxious. "Because it has everything," she joked.

It does a beef patty and rib burger, chips, ham, bacon, double cheese, eggs and much more. Even catering businesses now dish up kotas at events because clients ask for them. Charmaine Mokonyane from GC Royal Empire Catering makes what might be called "gourmet kotas" with burger-inspired ingredients such as a beef/chicken patty, tomatoes and lettuce. LesDaChef said: "The sauces are an integral part. These days most Kota sellers give you an option of sauces. If those components are done right, then anything else added on is just an extra."


#Heritagemonth: Meet SA's kota culture

Sandisiwe (Sandi) is a lifestyle and current affairs liker of things. Always aiming to inform readers of the best content there is and producing content that mirrors her interests and opinions. She enjoys frequent luncheons, wants to see more of the world, sit courtside at Wimbledon one day and cause a digital storm one day.

Sandisiwe (Sandi) is a lifestyle and current affairs liker of things. Always aiming to inform readers of the best content there is and producing content that mirrors her interests and opinions. She enjoys frequent luncheons, wants to see more of the world, sit courtside at Wimbledon one day and cause a digital storm one day.

 

For more news your way, download The Citizen's app for iOS and Android.

This post is currently not accepting comments.