The quest for the perfect curry is never-ending for true curry-lovers the world over, but what’s put KwaZulu-Natal on the culinary map, apart from our Durban curries, is the ‘Bunny Chow’ or ‘Bunny’ as it is known locally.
What is a Bunny Chow?
This unique street food is simple and tasty and is essentially any type of curry (chicken, vegetable, mutton, beef or beans), served in half or quarter of a hollowed-out loaf of white bread – the bread forming the ‘bowl’.
The bread that has been removed from the loaf to make room for the curry is then placed on top of the ‘bunny’, to form a ‘lid’. This excess bread is used later as the implement to scoop out the delicious contents. Some chefs add sambals to their ‘bunnies’, but this is a personal choice.
The popularity of the dish has encouraged even the most upmarket restaurants to have at least one ‘bunny chow’ on the menu, however if it’s curry you’re after then look no further than Durban’s best curry buffet, served at the Ocean Terrace at The Oyster Box. With a selection of up to 11 curries with sambals and traditional accompaniments served daily, you’ll always go back for more.
The origins of the Bunny Chow
Although there is no doubt that the ‘bunny chow’ was created in the 1940’s in Durban, home to a large community of people of Indian origin, there are a few schools of thought about how it got its name; two explanations which seem to have survived the test of time are:
• A restaurant run by people known as Banias (Indian tradespeople) first created the scooped-out bread and curry dish as a means to serve food to Indians who were not allowed in certain shops and cafes during the Apartheid era; the shop-owners found a way of serving workers through back windows, which became known as ‘take-aways’.
• Indian migrant workers, who were brought to South Africa to work in the sugar cane plantations of KwaZulu-Natal, needed a way to carry their lunches to the field; a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with their vegetarian curries, was a convenient way to do this.
How do you eat it?
The locals always eat a ‘bunny chow’ with their hands. Tear off pieces from the top and the sides and dip it into the sauce.
Make your own ‘Bunny’
The Oyster Box Chicken and Prawn Bunny recipe:
1kg cubed chicken breast fillets
500g prawns de-shelled
50g garlic paste
20g ginger paste
4tbsp sunflower oil
2 tomatoes pureed
20g cumin powder
30g garam masala
50ml pureed tomato
100g onion paste
40g mixed masala
20g dhania powder (coriander powder)
1 sprig of curry leaves
50g chopped dhania (coriander)
1 loaf of white bread
1 Heat the oil in a deep sauce pan.
2 Add the onion, ginger, garlic, paprika, cumin powder, garam masala, dhania powder and the mixed masala. Cook until fragrant.
3 Add the chicken and cook for a further four minutes.
4 Add the tomato puree and cook for eight minutes.
5 Add the prawns and curry leaves and allow it to reduce to a sauce consistency.
6 Season with salt.
7 Add clarified butter to finish the dish
8 Slice the loaf of bread into halves, hollow out the soft interior and spoon the curry mixture into the hollowed-out bread.
9 Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with sambals.
10 Optional to serve with crayfish on the side.
Where to find Durban’s best ‘Bunny Chows’
62 South Beach Road, Desainagar, Tongaat | +27 (0)32 941 5551 | www.seabelle.co.za
The Capsicum Restaurant at the Britannia Hotel
1299 Umgeni Road, Durban • +27 (0)31 303 2266
Patels Vegetarian Lounge
202 Grey Street, Durban • +27 (0)31 306 1774
39 Eaton Road, Umbilo, Durban • +27 (0)31 205 5363