The bunny chow is a popular fast food that originated in the old Indian quarter of the Durban city centre. It is made of bread that has been hollowed out and filled with a meat or vegetable curry. The unique taste of a bunny chow stems from its filling, usually a thick or oily South African Indian curry, which varies significantly from south Asian curries. Coconut milk or double cream is never used in traditional South African Indian curry.
The creation of the first bunny chow is still hotly debated. Many Indian fast food outlets in Durban have laid claim to being the first but as yet this has been unsubstantiated. Since its appearance on the South African Indian fast food scene in the 1940s, the bunny chow has grown to become a favourite among South Africans of all race groups.
The bunny chow was considered as peasant food, convenient for a quick lunch time bite or shared among a group of friends looking for a cheap meal.
Take aways, previously referred to as tea rooms, were the main source of the bunny chow prior to 1990. It was available as a quarter, half or full loaf although the ‘quarter bunny’ is still considered as the traditional bunny chow size. After years of being served on its own with no accompaniments, the bunny chow was eventually packed with a small serving of carrot salad consisting of grated carrots, chopped onion and chilli.
Today the bunny chow has crept on to the menus of many of South Africa’s premium eating establishments. It is served with a sambal side dish consisting of diced onions, tomatoes, chilli and coriander. Using your hand to break a piece of curry soaked bread and mop up the filling is still considered as the only way to truly enjoy a bunny chow.
Bunny chow picture from Wikimedia Commons taken by Luke Comins.