This is the first time in many years that I have not gone back home to South Africa and I am seriously missing some of the treats that I usually enjoy there. Today I’m treating my family to a Durban specialty, BUNNY CHOW!
The origins of Bunny Chow are not clear. One account suggests that migrant workers from India who were brought to South Africa to work the sugar cane plantations of Kwazulu-Natal (Port Natal) required a way of carrying their lunches to the field; a hollowed out loaf of bread was a convenient way to transport their vegetarian curries. Meat based fillings came later.
Another story suggests that Bunny Chow was first created by Indians known as Banias (an Indian Caste) and it was a means to serve take-aways to excluded people. During the apartheid regime, Indians were not allowed in certain shops and cafes and so the shop owners found a way of serving the people through back windows, etc. This was an easy and effective way to serve the workers. The traditional Indian meal was roti and beans; however rotis tended to fall apart as a take-away item. So they cut out the centre portion of the bread and filled it with curry and capped the filling with the portion that was cut out.
Yet another story of the bunny chow’s origin is that, as in India, merchants who traditionally sold their wares under the ‘bania’ tree (also known as the banyan, or Ficus bengalensis) were called ‘bania’. The use of this name is known in India going back to antiquity.
Regardless of the origins, cute little bunnies are not one of the ingredients used in this dish.
I make Bunny Chow and serve it in a round sourdough bread and serve it as an appetizer. Just break pieces of bread and dig in.
Communal eating brings us even closer. It’s a great way to build relationships. So serve this dish at your next get together and chow down your Bunny Chow.
Bunny Chow Recipe
Time to Prepare: 45minutes
Serving Size: 6/7 people
Any kind of curry goes into a bunny chow. It depends on your taste.
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion finely sliced
1 tablespoons garam masala
2 teaspoon ground coriander (seeds)
1 teaspoon hot ground black pepper
5 bay leafs
½ teaspoon of red chili powder
2 teaspoon salt
2 big cardamons
2 teaspoon ground cumin powder
2 green chilies finely chopped
1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon of paprika
2 medium tomatoes chopped
1 pound boneless chicken cut up in small pieces (10 boneless chicken tender pieces)
2 teaspoons of garlic paste
2 teaspoons of finely chopped ginger
1 large potato cut in 1” cubes
1 bunch of fresh cut up cilantro.
1 Heat the oil and fry onions till they become translucent.
2 Now add the tomatoes, and fry till the tomatoes become a mushy consistency and the oil separates.
3 Add the chicken, potatoes, ginger, garlic and curry leaves and fry for a minute. Add all spices and stir till chicken is all mixed up in the spices.
5 Cover the pot and every 5 minutes stir the chicken till it’s cooked and the potatoes are cooked. Add 1/4 cup of warm water to give the dish a little curry. You don’t want too much liquid because this curry will be placed in the bread but just enough so that you can dip your bread. Cook for about 30 minutes till chicken and potatoes are cooked. If the pieces are smaller the chicken and potatoes cook faster.
If you use a rectangular Loaf of bread:
6 Cut your rectangular loaf of bread across into two or three chunks, depending on how hungry you are.
8 Cut out most of the soft white bread, leaving a thick wall and bottom. Keep the bread you removed.
9 Ladle the curry into the hollows, and then put back on top the bread you removed. You could use this bread to help eat the filling, as “this is ALWAYS eaten with the hands”.
If you use a round sourdough bread:
10 Hollow out the middle of the bread in a circular shape. Keep the bread that you scooped out aside to help eat the chicken.
11 Ladle the curry into the hollows, and then put back on top the bread you removed. You could use this bread to help eat the filling, as “this is ALWAYS eaten with the hands”.