Bunny Chow originated in the city of Durban in South Africa in the early 1900s and is essentially a curry in a bun.
What is Bunny Chow ?
The origin of the name Bunny Chow comes from a mispronunciation of bannia, the word for Indian merchants in Durban. Effectively, it is a takeaway dish, which is why it is now a popular South African street-food. It is made by hollowing out the middle of a loaf of bread, filling it with curry and then using the bread to dip. And the removed crust is used as a spoon to scoop out the curry.
So, what is an Indian curry in a British bread loaf doing in South African cooking? Well, between the years 1860 to 1911, Indian labourers travelled to South Africa. They worked on plantations growing crops such as coffee, pineapples and tea. At the time, these were under British control. After their contracts ended, the Indian labourers were offered a free passage home or a small piece of land. Those that stayed on grew fruit and vegetables which they peddled or traded at the local market. They were very successful and some of them opened shops.
At the same time, other immigrants arrived from India, bringing with them goods to sell, including spices. Also, small eating houses were opened to feed the growing Indian population. But black South Africans also enjoyed the Indian style food. However, it was illegal for them to be served inside. The solution was to serve them quickly at the back door and without cutlery or plates. This is how Bunny Chow came about.
The original Durban curry in Bunny Chow was made from local beans, which are very similar to pinto beans. Today, other versions are popular, for example chicken, mutton or lamb, and vegetable. A British style bread loaf was used because the wholemeal flour needed to make Indian breads had not been available for years. And the technique for Indian flatbreads was lost along with the detailed knowledge of Indian recipes and spice combinations. The result is, therefore, something different and now specifically South African.
At Go Spice, we have developed our own Durban Curry spice blend. We call it UKHARI, which is Zulu for curry. It is fruity, hot and one of our favourites. As well as Bunny Chow we use it to make a breadless Durban Curry.
Chicken Durban Curry
Bean Durban Curry