A bunny chow, or bunny as the locals call it, is mouth-watering curry filled inside a hollowed-out loaf of bread. A loaf of white bread may seem bland, but add any delicious curry to it, and you’ll have yourself a tasty bunny. Of course, you could use the whole loaf where a family can all eat together, but restaurants and take-aways commonly serve it as a quarter loaf, usually filled with the option of mutton, chicken or beans curry. Mutton curry is the most popular curry to fill inside a bunny, and for that reason, we’ll let you in on how to make a traditional mutton bunny.
First up, you need to know that bunny chow is South African Indian food. Why? You don’t want to be like Trevor Noah (well-known South African comedian), travelling to India, arrogantly brushing the menu aside and stating with confidence, “I’ll have a bunny chow,” only to be told, “Sorry, Sir. We don’t serve rabbit here.” So no, a bunny in this context is not interchangeable with a rabbit!
Most assume that the people of an Indian caste, Banias, initially served it in restaurants. The Indians attended many Chinese people, and the Chinese call their food chow; hence it was called bunny chow. Another theory is that labourers invented it while trying to transport their curry for lunch. With no containers available for transporting the curry, they came up with the idea of using a loaf of bread as a container. Whichever story you believe, the bunny chow indeed hails from the Indian community on the eastern coast of Durban, making it proudly South African food.
Bunny chow recipe
To get that exceptional bunny, you’ll need to know how to prepare your curry and your loaf of bread. So, here’s everything you need to know to get your mutton bunny started.
What you need
- 500-gram lamb on the bone is best
- 80 ml vegetable oil
- one onion cut in quarters, finely sliced
- 2 x 3cm piece cinnamon stick
- a star aniseed
- one black elachie/cardamom
- two bay leaves
- one sprig of curry leaf
- 2 tsp ginger/garlic paste
- 2 tbsp masala
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds/soomph
- two Roma tomatoes blanched and grated
- two potatoes cut into medium-sized cubes
- salt to taste
- few coriander leaves for garnishing (optional)
- one cup of water
What to do
- Start by heating your oil and then add the cinnamon stick, black elachie, star aniseed and bay leaf. You’ll want to fry these off for a few seconds until fragrant. Then add your onion and curry leaves.
- Once your onions have slightly browned and look glassy, add your ginger and garlic paste and sauté it for about a minute.
- Next, add your masala, turmeric, soomph and garam masala and fry for another minute until it forms a nice thick paste. You can add a few drops of water as needed.
- Then add the lamb and mix well. Cook on medium heat, leaving your pot open for five minutes for the spices to infuse the meat.
- Add your tomatoes and season with salt before closing the lid and allowing the curry to cook and the gravy to thicken.
- Finally, add your potatoes to your curry and allow them to cook for 5 minutes. Add a cup of water to prevent the curry from burning. Add less water if you’re using unbelievably soft potatoes or if you want to get a rich, thicker gravy.
- If you feel your potatoes are cooking quite quickly, it may leave you with a watery curry, so dial the heat back to a lower setting to allow the curry to cook until the gravy is thick and the potatoes are soft.
Assembling your bunny chow
A loaf of white unsliced bread with a flat top, known in SA as a “Government sandwich loaf,” provides the perfect container for your curry if you’re serving a family of four. If making a bunny for one person, cut the loaf in quarters. Next, cut off most of the soft white bread, leaving a thick wall and bottom. Keep that portion of the bread aside. Then generously fill your curry into the hole and place the bread you removed back on top as a cover. Use this bread to help eat the curry as it soaks a lot of the gravy.
How to serve
With a bunny chow, a staple salad to pair it with is the grated carrot, chilli, and onion, soaked in vinegar on the side. Alternatively, dice tomato, cucumber and onion in equal portions and add a pinch of salt and either vinegar or lemon juice to dress. Both accompaniments are delicious.
Bunny chow near me
When in South Africa: You’ll find bunnies across Durban, a few places in Johannesburg and in a few places in Cape Town, but let’s consider some standout places in no particular order. If you ask for a quarter mutton, you will get a quarter portion of a mutton bunny chow.
- Capsicum Restaurant, Durban, South Africa – The bunny is spicy and authentic and meets the expectation of a traditional Durban bunny. It is popular among locals and tourists.
- My Diners, Durban, South Africa (Gateway) – This is the perfect place to pick out a bunny chow in the famous Gateway mall. You can pick out a quarter, half or whole loaf bunny.
- Hollywood Bets, Durban, South Africa – The bunnies here are authentic and spicy.
- Curry and All, Sandton, South Africa – They serve authentic Indian curry. Their bunnies are hot and spicy.
- Currylicious, Johannesburg, South Africa – Their bunny is a big enough portion that reminds you of a Durban bunny.
- Eastern Food Bazar, Cape Town, South Africa – With good value for money, you’ll find everything here, from masalas to samosas to their famous bunny chows.
If you can’t seem to find a place that sells bunnies, the recipe above is your best bet. Remember, you should always eat this dish with your hands, so don’t be afraid to dig in.
More than bunny chows at FinGlobal
At FinGlobal, it’s no secret that we love a good bunny chow, but we’re a team that’s about so much more than that. Our main objective is to provide South African expats with the advice and guidance they need to get their tax and financial emigration smoothly processed when leaving South Africa. We also assist Saffas with their retirement annuity withdrawals, FOREX, and inheritance too. Need a helping hand with the finer intricacies of your financial emigration from South African? Get in touch with us today.
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