With the recent developments in the Space X and Tesla car manufacturing and the company’s frequent mentions in leading newspapers, I was reading about their infamous CEO Elon Musk and then started researching on South African food owing to his country of origin. Bunny Chow as a dish became of interest to me and I decided to share some insights about this humble dish with the readers. The best way to describe it is “an Indian dish you’re unlikely to find in India.”
Bunny Chow is deliciously tasty South African street food which is made with aromatic spices, meat, chickpeas and potatoes and is served in hollow bread. It is one kind of sandwich.
Bunny Chow is essentially a kind of bread bowl. You take a loaf of white bread, scoop out the middle portion of the bread and fill it with your choice of curry.
The curry can be vegetarian beans or meat. You may wonder where the word “Bunny” comes from. This word comes from the corruption of an Indian term referring to merchants. This dish is not so known by Indian community outside South Africa and has its origin from Durbin, the third largest city in South Africa.
Bunny Chow is one of the best examples of a classic fusion cuisine which remains best known in its hometown. Like with all popular foods their story or origin varies, in a similar way there are few stories about the origin of this dish.
The most popular story explaining how Bunny Chow originated describes it as a totally portable dish served to black people under apartheid, South Africa’s 20th century system of racial separation. Black people weren’t allowed to eat in certain restaurants and the bread was used as a holder, or a plate, so that nothing needed to be returned after eating.
Indians started coming to South Africa in 19th century as labourers and later as passengers and travellers. In those days they could not find all the ingredients they used back home, then they created spice mixes in Durban curries which are distinctively different from their original counterparts found in Delhi or other Indian cities.
Another story relates the origin of Bunny Chow with the Indian trading community known as Bania. The tern Bania came from Sanskrit word for merchant. From the Bania man shop comes the bunny man shop and from bunny man shop came the Bunny Chow. Another story relates that the restaurant owners gave bread filled with leftover curry to beggars so that they do not use the serving dishes back again.
Bunnies are generally ordered and served by size, such as a quarter of a loaf or half of a loaf. You would say “quarter mutton” to order loaf of bread filled with lamb.
Bunnies are generally ordered by size, such as a quarter loaf or half loaf. You would say “quarter mutton” to order a quarter loaf of bread filled with lamb.
Eating Bunny Chow is also like “an exotic eating adventure,” “If you’re respectable, you definitely don’t eat with your hands”. Theoretically, it’s possible to eat a Bunny Chow with a knife and fork, but that’s like a New Yorker eating a slice of pizza using utensils. Eating a bunny, with the sides of white bread growing increasingly soggy, can quickly turn messy, the fate you finish your Bunny Chow the less messy it will be.
Don’t let the ingredients list scare, it’s simple and straight food and is no more complicated than making any stew. The only hard press decision is what to what meat to use. Or you can leave the meat for the carnivores and make it totally vegetarian or vegan if that’s your thing. Be sure to grab some bread from your neighbourhood bakery and you are good to go. Or you can serve it a non-traditional way with rice and some vegetables.
Chicken Bunny Chow
Chicken thigh meat 1 lb
Cooking oil 2 tbsp
Curry leaves 2 sprig
Ginger, chopped 1 tsp
Garlic, chopped 2 tsp
Curry powder 1 tbsp
Onion, diced 1 nos.
Tomato, diced 1 nos.
Cinnamon stick 1 nos.
Paprika powder 1 1/2 tsp
Cardamom pods 2-3 nos.
Potato, diced 1 nos.
Chickpeas, boiled 50 gm
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
White pepper powder to taste
Chicken broth 2 cups
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Heat a heavy bottom sauce pan with oil and sauce onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick, curry leaves, cardamom soda and curry powder and stir
Cook for 2-3 minutes or until onions are translucent
Add diced tomato followed by chicken , stir and saute for about 2-3 more minutes
Add chicken stock/ water if required to avoid burning the curry
Add boiled chickpeas, potato and remaining chicken broth
Bring to boil and reduce the flame or simmer over slow flame
Cook till the chicken is cooked and the sauce thickens, approx. 20-25 minutes
Adjust the salt and pepper and drizzle some olive oil on top
Scoop out a bread loaf and fill the prepared curry in it and cover back with the bread lid, serve hot.
* Chef Tarun Kapoor, Culinary Mastermind, USA. He may be contacted at [email protected]
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