One cannot gloss over this iconic Cape Town sandwich without understanding exactly what all the hype is about when it comes to the Gatsby. Heritage cuisine in South Africa is an integral part of the identity of our rainbow nation. In Cape Town, the street food culture is the heartbeat of the Mother City and the Gatsby remains the most iconic.
The name itself might have been influenced slightly by the 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby by American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, for its depiction of a larger-than-life variation of the American dream. In the case of the Cape Town Gatsby, larger than life certainly comes to mind when you consider that this bulky sandwich can easily feed four to six people, generously!
In the heart of the southern suburbs in Cape town, Mr Rashaad Pandy, the inventor of the original Gatsby, maintains that it was accidentally created by him and was never supposed to have been on their menu at Super Fisheries in Athlone. According to Mr Pandy, ‘he serendipitously invented the gatsby in the 70s after putting together a few odds and ends comprising of a Portuguese roll, hot chips, polony and atchar to feed a few hungry workers.’ He goes on to mention that it seemed to have been a hit and he decided to make a few more the following day, left it out for customers to sample and to provide feedback. The name itself was suggested by a friend and longtime customer, who confirmed that this mega sandwich was a ‘smash – in fact a Gatsby smash!’. Mr Pandy loved it and the Gatsby as we know it was born.
The essence of a great Gatsby is the combination of fluffy bread, salty and zesty slap chips, cold meats or masala steak and spicy sauce. The bread cannot be crusty, it has to be soft and fluffy to soak up all the flavours. The chips must be the traditional slap chips that most South Africans adore, drenched in vinegar and sprinkled with salt.
The quality and quantity of the meat are essential. The most common are cold meats such as polonies or viennas, or tenderised cuts of beef such as braised steak or masala steak. In terms of quantity, you need a good balance of meat and chips to bread. This also brings me to the sauce, which provides added flavour and moisture. The sauce is down to individual taste, but is as crucial as all the other elements I have mentioned here. The more popular sauces are the spicy, red chilli- and peri-peri-based tomato sauces. These are just a few of a variety of sauces that one can choose from, including a selection of atchars. The fillings range from fish, chicken and seafood to the full house, which consists of masala steak, fried eggs and cheese!
The Gatsby is also garnished with crispy iceberg lettuce and slices of ripe, red tomatoes. Lastly, before your order is finally packaged, you’ll be asked ‘how do you want it sliced?’. Your answer really depends on how many people will be devouring this mega sandwich! The standard response is often ‘sliced into four or six pieces’ but even an ambitious eight pieces can be accommodated.
- For the sauce:
- 2 T vinegar
- ¼ cup tomato sauce
- ¼ cup sweet chilli sauce
- ½ T seasoning salt (I’ve used the Taj’s chips salt)
- ½ t peri-peri
- ½ t paprika
- ½ t roasted masala or curry powder
- 1 t white sugar (optional)
- For the sandwich:
- 8 cups canola or vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 10 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chips and soaked in 3 cups water
- 16 slices French or garlic polony or 12 red viennas
- 1 large soft baguette, sliced down the centre but still intact at the back of the loaf
- 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
- 6 iceberg lettuce leaves
1. Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
2. To prepare that cold meat and chips, prepare a large baking tray by placing sheets of paper towel on the bottom. This will assist in draining excess oil when transferring the hot chips from the oil. Also line a plate with paper towel. This will assist in draining excess oil when transferring the cold meats from the hot oil.
3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan on high heat.
4. In the meantime, drain the potato chips and pat them dry with a kitchen towel.
5. Once the oil is hot, drop the raw potato chips into the oil and deep-fry for 15–20 minutes or until the chips are golden and tender.
6. Remove the fried chips with a slotted spoon and transfer to the paper towel-lined baking tray.
7. Drop the polony slices or viennas into the oil for literally just a minute and remove, then set aside on the paper towel-lined plate.
8. Once most of the excess oil has been drained, transfer the chips into a large mixing bowl.
9. Pour the sauce over the chips and toss until the chips are well-coated.
10. To assemble the Gatsby, place the baguette on a cutting board while you assemble the sandwich.
11. Generously cover the bottom half of the bread with chips, spreading them out to cover the entire surface of the bread.
12. Liberally place the fried polony or viennas on top of the chips. You can, at this stage, also add additional sauce of your choosing.
13. Add the last layer of chips, then lettuce leaves and slices of tomato. Slice into six portions and serve.
Extracted from Modern Cape Malay Cooking by Cariema Isaacs. Penguin Random House PHOTOGRAPHER: Turhaan Samodien. R350