My daughter is living in Durban, South Africa, doing a semester of study abroad. She keeps telling us about a food called “Bunny Chow,” so I decided to try to find out what it is. It’s a curry stew, usually made with lamb, chicken or vegetables, scooped into a hollowed out quarter or half loaf of bread.
There are several stories that claim to tell the origin of bunny chow in Durban. One is that Indian immigrants who arrived in South Africa to work on sugar plantations used the sturdy bread to carry their curry into the fields, a form of fast food that could be transported and eaten without much trouble. The other is that during apartheid the Indian immigrants, who were not able to be served with whites, would go to the back of the restaurant, where they could be served bunnies, as the locals call them, because they required no forks or plates. Roti, the traditional bread for curries, was too flimsy to carry the curry in, so the hollowed loaves replaced it and also served as a take out container. According to Food 52 blog, in both stories, “Bunny” is “a permutation of the word Bania, an Indian caste of merchants who sold the curries.”
The following recipe is adapted from the Travel Bite Blog, Madeline Grimes:
Author’s Notes: A thick curry served in a quarter, half, or full loaf of bread. South Africa’s answer to the hot dog.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 large white onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons tumeric
2 ground cardamom pods
2 tomatoes, diced
2 cups carrots, diced
2 cups potatoes, cubed
2 large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 cup chicken stock or water
2 unsliced loaves of crusty white bread, each cut across in half in the middle and most of inside hollowed out like a bread bowl.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the cinnamon and bay leaves until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the onions and fry until they are almost translucent. Add garlic, ginger, and all of the remaining spices and cook another 1-2 minutes.
Add the carrots, potatoes, chicken, and stock or water. Stir and bring to a low simmer. Cook and cover for about 30 minutes until chicken is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Spoon the curry inside the bread.
Over the weekend, my husband and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary in Lewes, Delaware, at a small bed and breakfast that caters to people and their dogs. Known as the Lazy L (we never did find out what the “L” stood for), it was immaculately clean, especially considering that there were dogs, dogs, people, and did I say dogs? We managed to get a room right across from a very yappy Yorkshire terrier, easily the worst behaved pooch in the house. Every single time we went in or out the dog barked, a high pitched rather annoying bark. But it was his owner I found even more annoying – why – because each time it happened she apologized for his Rufus’s behavior. What does this have to do with food? Well, it made me hungry…hungry for quiet, hungry for a bigger room, more privacy— and for a good meal. Fortunately we had Sonja with us. She could have eaten Rufus in one bite, but being a rather large red lab, retriever, Ridgeback mix, she preferred dog food…and was happy to stay in the room, alone, quietly sleeping for while after a long day swimming and fetching in the Chesapeake Bay. That’s when my hubby and I left for dinner.
In Lewes, we skipped the hour-long wait at the Mexican restaurant we’d heard was mahvelous and instead went up the street to Kindle. It was lovely. We sat inside. I have few complaints – it was a little on the warm side, but it was over 90 degrees all day so most places had to crank up the AC pretty high to keep things cool.
We each had a beet, blue cheese and frise salad with a delicious vinaigrette dressing. We also shared a Moroccan chick pea soup. It had a tomato base, lots of chick peas, and Moroccan spices that satisfied us and weren’t too overwhelming. For entrees, I chose the Princess cut Filet Mignon with Cremini and Shitake mushrooms, Arugula and Roasted Red potatoes. The preparation was top-notch and cooked perfectly rare, as I requested. More interesting was what my husband ordered — Scallops on a Gruyere Crouton, Tomato Broth, Garbanzo Beans & Braised Swiss Chard. Yes, they like garbanzo beans, but it worked. He said it was delicious and exciting to have something different that was also beautifully presented.
The evening was even romantic. The display of candles that kindled nearby and above the tables make the lighting really special. The service was excellent – not too intrusive and somewhere between fast and just right.
Glad we left the dog, who was happy to see us when we returned, (Rufus yapped) but not too sad to have time alone. No barking from Sonja was reported.