FOOD: Bunnies, Book Clubs and Currying Favours; Re-creating Iconic Durban Bunny Chow
Updated: Jul 19, 2022
I’ve been trying to ingratiate myself with Beth, so she'll invite me on some fabulous, off the beaten path travels of hers. No such luck! She does, however, invite me to cook for her, replicating some of the delicious meals she has sampled on her many trips. I benefit how, you ask? I get menu suggestions that lead to incredible conversations that spice up my life. Not exactly plane fare and a five-star hotel, but I’ll take it.
Beth’s recent trip to Durban, South Africa, yielded me a new cooking experience; curry. I’m not a fan of spicy food and have never tried to make a curry, so this was a fun opportunity to attempt the recipe and serve to my willing book club taste testers. I settled on an easy curry recipe for a Durban standard, Bunny Chow.
Considered fast food, Bunny Chow originates in Durban and is attributed to migrate workers from India and surround. The name 'Bunny' derives from BANIA, which is slang for a Gujarati person. Gujaratis are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group of western India.
A Bunny Chow is curry ladled Into a hollowed out half loaf of bread. They can be spicy vegetarian, or meat and veg combo. Lamb is especially popular in Durban, and actual bunny is not. It is eaten Indian style, with fingers, and the quality of a bunny chow is judged by how well the gravy soaks into the bread. Preparing the spice base first is very rewarding as the smell is lovely. After sautéing the spice base with onions, I divided them in half so that I could present both a meat and vegetarian option.
Using soft Italian rolls instead of the recommended white loaf, I hollowed them out and filled with both meat and vegetarian options. When I served the bunnies at my book club, all my guests applauded the effort and enjoyed the Bunny Chow backstory.Unknown to me at the time, one of my guests, new to our book club, is from Durban. As a Durbanite, she is very familiar with curries and heartily approved this recipe!
As I live in backwater Texas, some required ingredients were not available at my local grocery. Substitutions are noted.
1 teaspoon anise extract. (or 1 star anise)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. (or one cinnamon stick)
3 Cardamom pods
1/2. teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2. teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 UP oil. I substituted with olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Sauté these ingredients over medium heat until they begin to darken and the aroma is strong.
Add these fine spices:
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground hot pepper, cayenne
2 teaspoon turmeric
Cook, stirring continually, until the curry spices start to stick to the pan.
Add 1, 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes, reserve the juice and heat through.
Remove from heat. At this point I split my base in half to prepare both a meat and vegetarian option. If you do not require two different options, just follow your heart.
Brown 1 1/2 pounds of cubed beef, lamb or chicken. Substitute chickpeas for a meat-free option.
2 teaspoons ground ginger or fresh minced
4 Cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup green peas for colour
6 Curry leaves. I substituted with bay leaf and lime zest, as suggested on Google search. Do NOT sub with curry powder!
Return the spice base and reserved tomato juice and simmer for roughly 1 1/2 hours over low heat. If dry, add water or stock (to meat option) if you would like a richer curry.
Cut the lid off of the unsliced bread loaf , then cut into portions. Hollow out each portion. Alternatively, use individual rolls as I did. Ladle in the curry. Eat with hands, or use a fork. Again, follow your heart.
Pair your Bunny with a very cold Tiger beer, or a coconut milk based cocktail. Both reduce the heat of a spicy curry. See the Painkiller recipe in the Bevvy of the Month blog section.
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