One thing that has to be a part of any trip to Durban is a Bunny Chow. But Durban is far away, so I had to make one at home. There is something really delicious and comforting about a serving of good curry in a hollowed out loaf of bread with the gravy soaked into the bread! That’s my latest attempt above. A lamb curry garnished simply with coriander leaves. A bunny chow is, of course, eaten with fingers, using the bread.
History of the Bunny Chow
The bunny chow appears to have originated in Durban in the 1940’s, though there are different stories about how it came to be. One way or another Durban, and for that matter a good part of kwaZulu-Natal, has a large population of Indian descent. Durban is known for its curries.
The bunny chow is basically a curry in bread, with the bread used as a bowl. Originally the curry would have been vegetable, but over the years mutton and chicken have become common. I have also eaten beef curry in a bunny. And, of course, it is unusual to find a mutton curry in the UK, so lamb it is!
Typically it comes, in Durban, as a “full” (i.e. 800g loaf), “half” (half an 800g loaf) or a “quarter” (typically half a small, or 400g loaf). The middle of the bread is carefully removed as a single piece, leaving the crust as the bowl. The crust is filled with curry, and the bread removed from the middle used to top the filling. Sambals can be added as necessary.
Bunny Chow in the UK and Making Your Own
There are a number of places in the UK advertising bunny chow in various forms, though I have only once sampled a local version, from a South African kiosk in Camden Market in London. I have heard that it is popular in some places, with pubs offering it on one day a week, then two, then all week.
If you are making your own bunny chow, there are two parts to remember:
- Bread which can form a bowl;
- Curry which has plenty of rich gravy. It can be meat or veg.
Personally I prefer to make the curry to fill the bread, but you can buy the curry from your local Indian takeaway. The do look at you sideways if you don’t order rice or naan, though.
Simply remove the centre of the bread, fill the crust with your chosen curry, and enjoy!
A Google search brought up a few UK based bunny chow restaurants. Not surprising as there are a few South Africans around:
- Now Now Food in Cambridge.
- Braai Shack Restaurant in Milton Keynes.
- The Swan at Flitwick in Bedford.
- Mowgli Street Food, in various places, apparently also does bunny chow.
My Bunny Chow Recipe
I have a big family, so this is intended to feed 8 people. Curry freezes well, though we rarely have any leftovers to freeze.
Play with quantities and spice mix as you wish, using this as a base.
This recipe has been used for mutton and beef, and, with a couple of variations, chicken. In the UK i use it with lamb.
- Cooking oil
- 3 large white onions
- 12 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- Ginger – I use about half of a ginger root from the supermarket
- 4 teaspoons ground coriander
- 6 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 3 or 4 chillies – depending on how hot you like it. I use 4 supermarket chillies
- salt to taste
- 2kg meat
- 3 tins tomato
- Coriander leaves
- Bread – 4 x 400g loaves, farmhouse, split tin or small sandwich loaves
Brown the onions. add the garlic and ginger and fry it all together for a minute.
Add the coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt and stir it all up together.
Add the meat, mix it all up and mix it all up well. Let it cook for ten minutes.
Add the tomatoes and chillies, turn the heat down and let it simmer slowly for about an hour. It’s cooked when the meat is tender and the oil is rising to the surface.
Cut the loaves in half and carefully remove the bread from the centre in one piece. Fill the crusts with curry, garnish with coriander leaves, put the removed bread and top and enjoy.