Bunny chow, the traditional South African dish has a history of oppression, struggles, and survival weaved into its story. The dish that has its origins in the port town of Durban has a significant Indian connection too.
The dish became popular in the 1940's as the staple of Indian labourers who worked in sugarcane fields in Durban. It was also the time when South Africa struggled under the oppressive apartheid. The dish was mainly sold by the Indian community called the Banias and it is said that the Bunny chow got its name from them. In local dialect, the word 'chow' means food.
Bunny chow is a hollowed out loaf of white bread filled with spicy curry. When the days of struggle and famine got over, the dish got a facelift with a carrot, onion, and green chillies salad topping.
Earlier, vegetables were mostly used to fill the bread loaf. However, now, bunny chow is prepared with eggs, chicken and other meat curries. The part of the bread that is scooped out of the loaf too is served with the dish. You could dip the bread in the delicious curry and enjoy. Those who have tried the Bunny chow in its authentic form say that it shouldn't be eaten on a plate. The dish should be held in hand and eaten swiftly. If not eaten quickly, the bread would soak up all the gravy and get softened.
Another interesting story about the Bunny chow reveals a history of oppression and inequality that prevailed in South Africa. During the days of the apartheid, the poor labourers were denied entry into the hotels in South Africa. They could only buy food parcels from the backdoor of the hotel. It was one of the hotel owners who filled the curry inside a loaf of bread so that the labourers could easily carry it.
Bunny chow soon became popular among the Indian community in Durban. This dish stands out not only for its incredible taste but also for being a filling dish. Later, many chefs and cooks experimented with the ingredients of the simple Bunny chow to transform it into an amazing street food.
Where to try: You can get unique varients of bunny chow in Kerala at PABLO's Bunny Wagon in Trivandrum. It is a food truck that operates from Karyavattam and is known for its reasonable pricing and laid back ambience.