Bunny Chow and Its Durban Curry

"This is a story: with a recipe. During the Great Depression in 1933 Indians, whites and Chinese in Durban, South Africa, suffered hunger like everyone else. The kids then discovered that the cheapest curry they could buy (for a quarter penny or half a penny) was made by a vegetarian Indian caste known in Durban slang as the Bania. It was made from dried sugarbeans (no meat). The children didn't have plates, and one kid got the bright idea to hollow out a quarter bread, asked the seller to put the bean curry in the hollowed-out bread, and then used the broken bread he's taken out as a sort of eating utensil. Chinese food was called "chow". Somehow the two words came together: Bania Chow. In time it simply became known as Bunny Chow. Bunny Chow was what the Indian sugar plantation workers took as their day's food to the lands: curry in hollowed-out bread halves. Cheap and practical ... Today it does not matter what your skin colour or station in life is: Durbanites and people from the Kwa-Zulu-Natal province love their bunny chow ... For this story and the recipe he managed to get from "the mysterious Lingela" who makes bunny chows daily, I am indebted to "Kitchenboy". Should he happen upon this story, he'll know who he is ... Thanks, Braam!"
photo by Keltria photo by Keltria
photo by Keltria
photo by Keltria photo by Keltria
Ready In:
1hr 10mins




  • Fry all the ingredients listed under "Whole Spices" until the onion is glassy.
  • Add the list called "Fine Spices". Lingela says: "Stir and fry until the spices stick to the bottom of the pot. If you have a good Teflon-coated pot, go and buy a cheap one first.".
  • Now add the tomatoes, and stir until everything sticking to the pot bottom comes loose.
  • Add the meat, ginger, garlic and curry leaves.
  • Simmer for half an hour or more, until the meat is almost tender, then add a little water and the potato cubes.
  • Simmer until meat is tender.
  • The bread:.
  • It should be the unsliced rectagular loaf with the flat top, known in South Africa as a "Government sandwich loaf".
  • You could cut the bread across into two, three or four even chunks, depending on how hungry the eaters will be.
  • Whatever you decide, with a sharp knife cut out most of the soft white bread, leaving a thick wall and bottom. Keep the bread you removed.
  • Ladle the curry into the hollows, and then put back on top the bread you removed. You could use this bread to help eat the curry, as "this is ALWAYS eaten with the hands".
  • (Actually, any kind of curry goes into a bunny chow. It depends on the cook and your tastes!).

Questions & Replies

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  1. Mammoo7
    Totally authentic Durban bunny recipe, only thing missing is we always eat bunnies with a side of sambal. Grated carrot, chopped green chillies and soaked in white vinegar. You can also add chopped onion and chopped coriander to this for a bit of variety and all!
  2. Inez R.
    Two spices that we in India would NEVER use too much : turmeric and gram masala. The amount used in this recipe is WAY too much!
  3. Actsofswine
    This was amazing! I had to cut back in cayenne a bit (very spicy) and did garnish with cilantro. Terrific!
  4. Chef LarryN
    This is a good 'bitter' curry, and maybe a bit too much of a 'powder' taste. I'd suggest to reduce the 3 tablespoons of garam masala to 3 teaspoons. Adding a large chopped carrot improves the taste. Remember to add salt afterwards, and quite a bit. I simmer the meat only for 10min and then pressure cook for 15min after adding the water, potatoes and carrots, and everything turns out super soft and succulent. Add a dollop of chutney to the side after dishing up to break the bitter taste for those who are used to the sweeter curry's. This recipe also works with chicken, perhaps exchanging the water for a good liquid chicken stock.
  5. corbs
    HI there bunny chow lovers,this is a lovely mouth watering recipe.I have cooked it several times,but to really enhance the flavour you must include garlic,in fact at least two cloves crushed garlic added towards the end of the cooking time brings all the flavour to the fore.I also add during cooking time a half a cup of fresh cut corrianda,man you will love it. <br/><br/>Lou Corbitt.


  1. Inez R.
    Gram Masala
  2. mersaydees
    Although the story and the promise of a rich spicy lamb dish lured me, this recipe did not work for me. It was coming along nicely until I tried to "stir and fry until the spices stick to the bottom of the pot"; the spices never stuck, and I think they burnt in the process; I'm wondering if it's because of the 1/2 cup of oil? When I've tried recipes like this in the past, they've called for 3 tablespoons of oil, most of which gets absorbed into the spices! I'm just guessing here! I did make my own recipe #13470, and I substituted kaffir lime leaves for the curry leaves, which were not available in my area. Sorry, Zurie! Made for ZWT4.


I'm a widow, retired, and I love cooking. I live on the coast in South Africa and I love seafood. You're welcome to my recipes (all kinds, definitely not just seafood!) Just remember that no recipe is ever cast in stone -- adjust to your taste! The photo was taken at a rustic seaside restaurant on our West Coast, approx 1 year ago (2016).
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