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Recipe: South African Bunny Chow

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Today’s special guest of honor is a one-of-a-kind dish you can’t help but love; the perfect blend of spices, love, and South African flavor –Bunny Chow! Bunny Chow is a popular South African street food; a sandwich made from a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with a flavorful curry, made with vegetables or meat.  

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It is a simple dish to prepare. All you need is the base of a delicious Bunny Chow stew and a freshly baked unsliced bread loaf with a soft center. To make it, cut the top off the bread, create a rectangle in the base, scoop out the inside to create a hollow, fill it with the curry, and voila! You have yourself a Bunny Chow!

Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “BUNNY?! Relax. There are no bunnies or rabbits in the Bunny Chow recipe. The meat can be any protein of choice, such as lamb meat, chicken, or beef. If you use chicken, it will be “chicken bunny chow,” – if you use lamb meat, it would be “lamb bunny chow.” And if you use only veggies, the Bunny Chow would be vegan.

With that cleared up, I know the next thing on your mind is, “so why is it called “Bunny” Chow?” Well, it would interest you to know that the “bunny” in Bunny Chow is a variant of the Indian word “Bania,” meaning merchants, used to address the Indian merchants who first sold this street food in South Africa. They were initially called “Bania” men, later anglicized to “Bunny” men, and finally, from “Bunny” men came “Bunny Chow!”

The South African Bunny Chow is an iconic dish with humble beginnings. And for South Africans, it is more than just a dish; it’s a heritage, a tribute to South Africa’s rich history. It originates from the biggest city in South Africa, Durban, and dates back to the 20th century. 

South African Bunny Chow
Source: “A typical South African dish-bunny chow” by Niqui Merrett

There are many stories about the origin of this dish. However, the most outstanding describes it as a convenient and portable meal for Black people under apartheid during South Africa’s 20th-century system of racial separation.  

Apartheid laws forbade Black South Africans from dining in restaurants with Whites. So to accommodate this, Bunny Chow was birthed as a way of selling food to them. It served as the perfect dish as the bread served as a container, eliminating the need to return anything after eating. Black folks would order takeout Bunny Chow through the back doors of restaurants and have a good filling at the end of the day. 

The second tale suggests migrant Indian barnias brought to South Africa as indentured servants to work on sugarcane fields in Durban invented Bunny Chow out of necessity for a convenient and portable way to carry their lunches to the sugarcane fields. These workers came up with the idea of filling a hollowed-out loaf of bread with their vegetarian curries. Later, the dish evolved to include meat-based fillings, making it even more satisfying.

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Over time, bunny chow has become a popular street food and a hearty, flavorful staple of South African cuisine.

Whip up a delicious Bunny Chow with EatMee Recipes, a popular food channel founded by South African chef Denisiya Hemraj. With Denisiya’s extensive culinary skills and passion, they offer easy-to-follow recipes and valuable expert tips, making cooking fun and accessible for all.

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How to make Bunny Chow

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-sized bread loaves
  • 1 kg boneless lamb, chicken or beef, diced into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 medium-sized onions (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 3 green chillies (sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • 2 large cinnamon sticks
  • 4 medium sized tomatoes (blended) 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup Vegetable oil 
  •  Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional, for garnish)

Instructions

To make the curry:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat.
  2. Add in the chopped onions, minced garlic, and green chillies and saute until the onions  are translucent.
  3. Add your spice mix, including curry powder, turmeric, chili powder, cinnamon sticks, cumin, and coriander and stir. 
  4. Add diced meat and cook for about 10 minutes until browned on all sides.
  5. Pour in the blended tomatoes and pepper, and stir. 
  6. Reduce heat and let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes or until the meat is tender.

Now, for the Bunny Chow proper; 

  1. Get your unsliced loaf of freshly baked bread, cut off the top, then  cut out a large rectangle in the larger portion of the bread and carefully hollow out the bread, creating a bowl-like shape.
  2. Fill the bread bowl with the flavorful curry mixture.
  3. Serve hot and garnish with chopped cilantro (if desired) and enjoy your delicious and authentic Bunny Chow!

For my vegan friends, you can enjoy a delicious and hearty Bunny Chow with a twist. Simply replace the meat in this recipe with your favorite mix of vegetables such as chickpeas, green peas, carrots, and potatoes. Cook until the veggies are tender and savor the rich flavors of the Vegan Bunny Chow.

South African Bunny Chow is traditionally eaten with your hands and without utensils, unless eaten in foreign restaurants. To savor the full experience, carefully tear off pieces of bread and scoop the curry for each bite. The combination of soft bread and savory curry makes for a unique and fulfilling dining experience. But be careful not to get messy as you immerse yourself in the flavors of Bunny Chow.

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Read Also: Recipe: Hearty & Simple Githeri Recipe (Kenyan Corn & Beans)

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Mary Gialiam Elijah
Mary Gialiam Elijah
I'm a passionate and professional writer who loves to write in the most conversational tone possible, top-notch content that engage, educate and inspire my readers.

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