Time to catch some South African bunny chow

The city of Durban in South Africa boasts a great alternative to fast food, in the form of bunny chow. But watch out, it's got a bit of a kick.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, takes a trip to Durban in South Africa, where the local bunny chow takes centre stage.

There’s a reason why people often consider travelling with someone as the ultimate test to get to know them. We’re on day seven of travelling around South Africa with chef Neil Perry and I feel like I have somewhat of a good idea of what he’s like. Three things you may not have known about him:

1. He has an astounding memory for names and facts

2. He gets recognised in South Africa by fans

3. His chant during this trip was "bunny chow, bunny chow, bunny chow!” (along with mine, I must admit).


So, what is bunny chow?

Well, it’s a particularly South African item that originated in Durban – our current location. It is Indian in origin. Indian men used to bring to work one container of rice and one container of curry. Legend has it that a canny housewife thought that instead of bringing two containers, she would hollow out a loaf of bread and stuff the curry inside it. They could use the hollowed out bread pieces to eat the curry inside.

Other stories say that bunny chow started as a fast means of serving Indian customers who were excluded from certain eateries during the apartheid regime.

Sold in quarter, half or whole loaves, it is considered a fast food. The name comes from the fact that the word bunny sounds like the word snack, rather than any actual bunnies being involved.

There are several other theories about bunny chow, all quite different within themselves and all provide a reasonable explanation for the dish and the name.

Driving down Florida street in Durban, we're ready to try bunny chow and roti at House of Curries. Here they’re sold as quarters or halves and they range in price from 25 Rand (A$2.89) to 48 Rand (A$5.55). We order several to share as there is such a big group of us. For good measure, we also order roti wraps as well as curry and rice.

The first thing to come out is a tray of tomato and onion salad, pickled carrot and a spicy sambal, which is the key to spicing up the bunny chows.

The bunny chows arrive and they’re rather curious looking, with a piece of bread on top. You are supposed to use your hands to eat them but as we are sharing we use a fork and knife. '

They taste good but I must admit that I preferred the fillings to the bread, which was a bit too stodgy and soft and ended up soaking up a lot of the sauce. My favourite out of the five bunny chows we tried was the chicken, which had soft, seasoned chicken inside as well as the tender lamb.

The roti wraps had the same sorts of filling as the bunny chows but the large roti wrapped around them – which was an Indian roti rather than a Malaysian one – was a much better pairing for the curry than the bread.

The mushroom and potato curry had us all huffing and puffing. Most of us adore spicy food and can handle it but the spice levels in this curry were long and lingering and no matter what you did, the spice lingered on the tongue and lips.

Other things to do in Durban apart from eat the Indian food are more sightseeing related. Durban’s cable car cleverly stretches across Moses Mabhida sports stadium which was built for the soccer World Cup. You can either take the cable car up one side or walk up the other until you reach the top from which you get a bird’s eye view of Durban and see exactly how large and sprawling it is...

durban south africa

The colonial British Raj setting is one of the places to be seen. Indeed, we have arrived during an enormous society wedding, which gives us a glimpse into Durban society...

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