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 bunny chow. However, its contents are what distinguishes the kota from its Durban cousin: 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.
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 round-up of five great places to try them.
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)
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)
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)
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)
If you ever want to get the original flavour of a thing, you have to find the source. 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)