Bunny chow. No, it’s not snack food for rabbits. Nor are the cotton-tailed cuties an ingredient. In fact the South African street food has absolutely nothing to do with bunnies of the fluffy variety.
Bunny Chow is essentially a half a loaf of white bread with the inside scooped out and then stuffed full of curry that first gained popularity in the Durban Indian community, before spreading right across the country.
It is believed to have originated when apartheid laws prevented black and Indian people from dining in restaurants. Enterprising merchants started serving the conveniently self-contained meal to excluded people from their back windows.
The dish is more often than not just referred to as a ‘bunny’, an unusual appellation said to come from the word Bania, the name of the Indian merchant caste who sold them.
While the original ‘bunny’ was a vegetarian curry, these days the still popular dish is also served with chicken, lamb, or mutton and comes in quarter, half, or full loaves with a leftover chunk of bread plonked on top.
Generally eaten without cutlery, this was food designed to be eaten on the go, the bread forming an edible bowl. Diners simply broke off chunks of the bread to sop up the spicy fragrant curry within.
Needless to say when I reported back from my adventures in Cape Town to my cutlery avoiding, curry loving son, he became fixated on shoving his face into one of them. And so he proceeded to nag me ten times daily until I recreated my Bunny Chow experience at home.
The meal proved such a big hit with everyone that we’ve been enjoying it on high rotation at Casa Eats World ever since… something this cook is very happy about because washing up has never been so easy.
- 4 large chicken thigh fillets cut into pieces
- 2 unsliced loaves of white bread
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 1 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
- 2 tsp. garam masala
- 2 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 dried cardamom pods
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cups potatoes, cubed
- 1 cup diced carrot
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup fresh coriander
- In a large pan, heat oil and fry onions on a medium heat until they soften.
- Add garlic and ginger and fry for one minute
- Add dry spices and fry for a further minute until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, chicken and stock to the saucepan.
- Stir and bring to a low simmer for about ten minutes
- Add the potatoes, carrots and cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.
- Cut loaves of bread in half and hollow out each half, reserving piece of bread form each
- Fill with cooked curry, sprinkle with fresh coriander and top with the leftover bread.