This was a great favourite of mine when I lived in South Africa and when a fellow South African expat friend of mine talked about having one during a recent trip to Durban……. the memories and taste came flooding back. The next step was to look for a recipe on the Internet where I not only located the following but found an interesting South African Chef – Turie – who also supplied the background story of Bunny Chow ………
This is a story: with a recipe. During the Great Depression in 1933 Indians, whites and Chinese in Durban, South Africa, suffered hunger like everyone else. The kids then discovered that the cheapest curry they could buy (for a quarter penny or half a penny) was made by a vegetarian Indian caste known in Durban slang as the Bania. It was made from dried sugarbeans (no meat). The children didn’t have plates, and one kid got the bright idea to hollow out a quarter bread, asked the seller to put the bean curry in the hollowed-out bread, and then used the broken bread he’s taken out as a sort of eating utensil. Chinese food was called “chow”. Somehow the two words came together: Bania Chow. In time it simply became known as Bunny Chow. Bunny Chow was what the Indian sugar plantation workers took as their day’s food to the lands: curry in hollowed-out bread halves. Cheap and practical … Today it does not matter what your skin colour or station in life is: Durbanites and people from the Kwa-Zulu-Natal province love their bunny chow … For this story and the recipe he managed to get from “the mysterious Lingela” who makes bunny chows daily, I am indebted to “Kitchenboy”. Should he happen upon this story, he’ll know who he is … Thanks, Braam!
Servings:Units: US | Metric
1 loaf bread, white, unsliced, flat-topped
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 cup oil
1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander (seeds)
1 teaspoon hot ground pepper (like cayenne)
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 tomatoes, medium, chopped
2 lbs leg of lamb, in cubes (or beef)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground ginger
6 curry leaves
2 potatoes, large, in cubes
Fry all the ingredients listed under “Whole Spices” until the onion is glassy.
Add the list called “Fine Spices”. Lingela says: “Stir and fry until the spices stick to the bottom of the pot. If you have a good Teflon-coated pot, go and buy a cheap one first.”.
Now add the tomatoes, and stir until everything sticking to the pot bottom comes loose.
Add the meat, ginger, garlic and curry leaves.
Simmer for half an hour or more, until the meat is almost tender, then add a little water and the potato cubes.
Simmer until meat is tender.
It should be the unsliced rectagular loaf with the flat top, known in South Africa as a “Government sandwich loaf”.
You could cut the bread across into two, three or four even chunks, depending on how hungry the eaters will be.
Whatever you decide, with a sharp knife cut out most of the soft white bread, leaving a thick wall and bottom. Keep the bread you removed.
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 curry, as “this is ALWAYS eaten with the hands”.
(Actually, any kind of curry goes into a bunny chow. It depends on the cook and your tastes!).