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Bunny chow 101

Something for grown-up kids. Eat with your hands and then jump in the pool!

by: Food24 | 01 Apr 2012

A curry in Summer? Yes it can be a very good thing if you sit outside and scoop delicious creamy pieces of chicken into a hollowed-out ciabatta roll.

Break with tradition and make the quickest curry in the world. Caramelize thinly sliced onion in a pan, add a bottled cook-in tikka sauce and chicken breast strips. Simmer gently until the chicken is cooked. Add some thick yoghurt, fresh chili and chopped coriander leaves to taste. Bunny chow and Cream Soda to the pool!

Scroll down for more curry recipes.

History of the bunny chow
This only-in-South-Africa combination of Asian curry, European bread, and South African apartheid was originally created in Kapitan's Vegetarian Eating House on the corner of Victoria and Grey streets in Durban.

Back in the bad old days, the traditional fare at Kapitan's was a bean curry and a few slices of bread in a bowl, commonly known as a "penny bread and beans". But because of apartheid laws, black customers were not allowed inside the restaurant, and with no Styrofoam packaging, the owner started selling quarter loaves of bread filled with curry, wrapped in newspaper and sold with a soft drink (traditionally Cream Soda, to cool the sting of the curry).

Another theory is that Bunny chow originated in the KZN region, when the first Indians landed to work in the sugar fields. The workers didn't have time to make the traditional Indian beads, so had Western bread with the curries.

Since it was cumbersome to carry the curries in separate containers, they cut the bread loaf in half, hollowed the soft part of the bread and filled it with their favourite curry, topped it with the soft bread, wrapped it, and off they went to work.

Sadly, Kapitan's Vegetarian Restaurant, who had counted Indira Gandhi and footballer, Bruce Grobelaar among their customers, was closed down in 2002 after trading for 80 years (the owners of the building cancelled the lease). Today The Gulzar Bunny Emporium in affluent Umhlanga has become the first "gourmet" bunny chow restaurant in the country. Besides its unique shape, the bread comes in five different flavours ? pepper, garlic, cumin, aniseed and sesame and patrons can select their bread and then create their own bunny via a buffet for just R29.

But why is it called Bunny chow?
Your guess is as good as mine, as there are as many explanations as there are fillings. Some believe the chubby appearance of the meal resembles the body of a bunny rabbit. Another theory is that "Bunny chow" is a combination of "bun" and "achar" or "atchar", a spicy Indian/Malay pickle or relish. Over the years "bun achar" came to be pronounced "bunny chow".

Yet another says the name comes from the words "banya chow." Banya was an old name for the Indian population in Durban. Some insist the term Bunny originated from the fact that the bunny chow can only be eaten with hands, imitating the rabbit. The word Chow, was a clichè for food.

Others say it's because it's a kind of bun, while, Indian playwright Ronnie Govender maintains the eating houses in Grey and Victoria Streets served a distinctive Gujarat-style of vegetarian cooking called "bhunia" ? hence the name.

Finally, some say a man known as Bunia started selling hollowed-out half loaves of bread filled with Gujerati-style broad bean curry in his takeaway. Bunia became bunny and eventually the strictly vegetarian fast food was adapted to include meat. Have we left any explanation out?

How to make bunny-chow
Traditionally, bunny chow is a hollowed-out quarter, half or full loaf of bread filled with any available curry including vegetarian, beef, mutton, chicken or beans. If you're using meat, boneless is best (for practical reasons).

The Bunny chow should be freshly made out of mature curry (curried mince is also delish) and the centre bread, or virgin, as some call it, removed to make room for the curry, then placed on top of the Bunny before it's wrapped. The virgin is also eaten, of course, mopping up the gravy. Some chefs add sambals to their Bunnies but you don't have to. A fingerbowl and plenty of napkins are a must. And don't mind outsider stares.

Recipes to try with Bunny chow

1. Steak and tomato bunny chow

2. Sugar bean bunny chow

3. Smoked ham and mushroom soup

4. Slow-cooked mutton curry

5. Chicken curry


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