An explosion of Kota festivals has erupted into a lava of feast. Over the years we have seen an evolution of lifestyle events in South Africa with the adaption of colour festivals, an Indian festive infused concept that has seen more and more promoters incorporate into their own events. Lately, the in things which sees more support and has gained major interest from the masses seems to derive from a kasi flavoured concept influenced by township lifestyle. The Kota is a South African original and it is only fitting to celebrate SA’s most indulged fast food in style and with pride. Kota is by far in numbers the most purchased South African fast food item consumed by millions of individuals across the country on a daily basis.
Given the basic structure of this popular township street food – a quarter loaf (kota) of bread hollowed out and filled again – it’s easy to see why many people liken it to another local treat, the bunnychow. However, its contents are what distinguish the kota from its Durbancousin: the soft loaf is crammed with a combination of, among other ingredients, atchar, polony, slap chips, cheese, egg and Russian sausage. To those who’ve grown up in the townships of South Africa, where the spazas sell popular street food unique to this socio-economic and geographic area, a kota is a kota – and like nothing else. “Think of the kota as an evolving township street food burger,” says Vuyo.
Popular fillings around Johannesburg include mince and mash and fish and chips, available at roadside spazas and backyard eateries like the one we visited. While the current experimentation with the kota is growing in popularity, there’s a reason it’s been around so long and is the ultimate guilty street food in our South African food culture – the nostalgia it invokes is unique to each customer’s childhood.(±R1o to R22 each) However, just like most legendary dishes, while the key ingredients may remain an unchanging foundation upon which to build, increasingly many chefs and cooks are throwing all caution to the wind and giving their kota a unique twist. While the jury is still out on whether you’ll find the best kota in Soweto, Tembisa, Atteridgeville or your own ’hood, here’s our roundup of a few great places to try them.
African Hot Plate (North Riding)- Traditional food made and served fast is what this eatery is about. And if we’re talking about Joburg tradition, then this kota definitely fits the bill. But if you think it’ll be the usual spatlo, you’ve got another thing coming. African Hot Plate takes things to the next level by adding bacon. (R35 each)
#FillUp KaMagogo (Tsakane)– Talk about a well prepared Kota, So many options you can get KaMagogo from your basic Kota to a Kota with ribs and a burger. Fresh quality ingredients and quality packaging, this place is truly the pride of the Far East when it comes to a Kota.
Dollar’s Place (Atteridgeville)-It doesn’t get more classic than this. A kota made with fresh white bread and filled with slap chips, egg, ham, Russian sausage and cheese. It’s a winner. (±R16 each)
Kota Joe (Melville)-While this fast-growing franchise has positioned itself as a roadhouse, it is a proudly South African eatery, adding some pretty unique twists to the kota. These include a grilled chicken, shwarma and a boerie kota. While they’ve experimented with the original dish, the presentation stays true to kota tradition. (R27.90 to R54.90 each)-
Kota Republic (Braamfontein)-This is your classic kota – what you’ve grown up eating and would expect to buy at the spaza shop down the road. However, this does not take away from the fact that it’s a winning dish, proving that the tried and tested works. (R10 to R40 each)
The spaza shop near you
If you ever want to get the original flavour of a thing, you have to find the source. i-Kota is no longer just an original African fast food meal, it has transcended into a lifestyle. There are now several Kota festivals being held all across South Africa, One of them being the Soweto Kota Festival where Kota and food lovers can expect more than 30 Kota food vendors. Whether you like Kota mince, Kota with chips or even Kota mash, all will be served. There will be live music and DJ’s in both days. We will be having kids entertainment
including jumping castles, digital games and face painting. Visitors must also expect a beer garden and wine tasting on both days. We believe food goes well with some drinks. We will be also introducing a Healthy Kota Challenge that seeks to promote a healthy lifestyle in the food preparations when making a Kota. We want Kota suppliers to reduce salt and oil. Though i-Kota is such a township pride it is also one more area of entrepreneurship in which South Africans have failed in. In a ground-breaking 2015 TED Talk, Thembekwayo dropped some bombs about what it means to start, maintain and grow a business. His message is simple: Africans need to think bigger, and small businesses don’t have to stay small. Thembekwayo gives examples of innovative ideas that black people have had for years but have failed to develop into something bigger. Kotas, which are a staple for many black South Africans in the townships have now been taken and upscaled by the Kota Joe’s franchise, now a multi-million-rand company, while many vendors in the hood still sell from small rooms. A limited mindset keeps many slogging away for years, battling to make ends meet. The Chairman of Watermark Afrika Fund says Africans need to realise that it is possible to move from the start-up phase to the growth phase in a short time. With innovative thinking, capital and other forms of support from more established businesses these companies can flourish.