Six classic South African sandwiches


Sandwiches – some call them food of the gods, but for most of us, they’re a simple, easy meal to enjoy out and about or at home as comfort food. While technically a savoury or sweet filling between two pieces of bread, there are many different takes on what a sandwich can be.

CD Anderson

From the Mexican tortilla to the American hamburger, the ham and cheese croque-monsieur and the Middle Eastern shawarma, cultures around the world all have their own version of a sandwich that perfectly sums up their tastes and heritage.

South Africa, with its melting pot of cultures, has its own distinct sandwiches, rich in both the history of the country as well as in taste.Here are six of the best South African sandwiches to inspire your next lunchtime.

Bunny chow

The bunny chow dates back to the 1940s, when Indian migrant workers in the sugar cane plantations of what was then Natal devised a unique, no-mess, no-fuss method of carrying their vegetable curry lunches in the fields: in a hollowed-out half-loaf of bread.

Traditional roti bread proved too unstable for a meal on the run, so food sellers (most notably the legendary Durban street café Kapitan’s) used loaves of government bread as a cheaper and more mobile alternative.

The name derives from the word ‘bun’ and the curry ingredient ‘achar’, anglicised into ‘bunny chow’. The modern bunny chow is not limited to vegetarian curry, with meat variants and even a breakfast bunny made with bacon and eggs proving popular. Despite the sandwich’s working class origins, the bunny chow is also enjoyed as a gourmet meal in top-class South African-themed restaurants around the world.

An African variation of the bunny chow, found in most food spaza shops in townships across the country, is the spatlo, or kota, a hollowed-out quarter-loaf filled with chips, polony and egg.

The gatsby

The gatsby is a Western Cape take on the traditional submarine, or sub, sandwich, a long bread roll filled with fish, chips and peri-peri sauce. Variations can include other meats, egg and polony. Calamari is also a favourite filling. A larger, Gauteng variation is nicknamed ‘AK-47’ because it can be held in one’s arm.

Originating on the Cape Flats during the 1970s, the sandwich, named after the book The Great Gatsby was a way for factory workers to use dinner leftovers for next-day lunches.
As one of the country’s more well-known foods, strongly integrated into the heritage and identity of the Cape Flats, gatsbys are served in up-market restaurants and corner cafés alike.

Above all, given its generous size, part of the sandwich’s enduring popularity is that it is always best enjoyed when shared.

Boerewors roll

Like the American hotdog, the humble boerie roll is quintessentially a national food of the people, enjoyed by South Africans of all ages, from all walks of life.

Served with fried onions and tomato relish – maybe a hint of chilli if so inclined – the boerie can be homemade as part of a traditional family braai or bought from mobile food stalls at sporting events, church bazaars, even after a night out on the town. It is the ultimate South African comfort food.

Braai broodjie

While it might seem like a deceptively simple variation on the universal toasted cheese and tomato sandwich, the distinct South African flavour of the braai broodjie comes from its back-to-basics preparation: on the grill, over an open fire.

A sandwich with cheese, tomato, onion and salt and pepper, the challenge in making a flawless broodjie is getting the cheese perfectly melted without burning the bread.

While commercial food manufacturers have attempted to duplicate the taste of a braai broodjie on a larger scale, nothing quite beats building your own broodjie from scratch and grilling it over the fire to your personal perfection.

Midundu, or vetkoek and mince

Based on the Dutch ‘olie bol’ (oil dough ball), the vetkoek is a perfect package as a sandwich, even if not completely traditional. The variations are endless, and not just savoury. The vetkoek can be made with jam, peanut butter and thick syrups.

But mostly, the vetkoek and mince combination is the most popular, always readily available and always delicious, from mobile food stalls at public gatherings and at the self-styled vetkoek palaise fast food outlets.

As comfortable in the heart of farming country as it is at your local shis’nyama, or even as part of a bunny chow or gatsby, the vetkoek and mince sandwich is the quintessential South African sandwich.

Source: reporter

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