Hastings on Food

2015-06-11 06:00

SALUTATIONS samoosas and chili bites. If one was to really define South African street food, the formidable bunny chow most definitely comes to mind.

Please note that for those of you who are not familiar with the dish it is certainly not associated with the Easter Bunny or the fluffy furry pets that most want as a child. Fundamentally it is a scooped out bread loaf filled with curry­, the top crust is used to close the loaf, keeping the curry warm and acting as a utensil to dip into the sauce.

In the thirties and forties, especially during the depression, Indian immigrants who came to work on the sugar plantations in Durban first introduced this dish. As most of them struggled financially they had to find new ways of eating cheaply as well as eliminating the need to use cutlery and dishes by having their lunch in hollowed out bread made it easier to transport to work.

Certain Indian individuals known as Banias, slang for an Indian caste, started restaurants where they sold vegetarian dishes made primarily from beans, as the dish grew more popular with other nationalities. Meat variations were introduced.

It is debated that Chinese food was known as chow and the Banias somehow merged into the Bania chow.

An awesome bunny chow will, unless vegetarian, consist of more meat than potatoes have a flavourful combination of cumin, turmeric, cardamom and desired heat. It is basically sink food meaning messy and must be eaten with the hands and is usually served with a side salad of grated carrot, chili and onions.

We are indeed indebted to all who have passed on the secrets of this illustrious dish.

Apart from the bunny chow the history­ of South African curries goes back 250 years when the first Indians arrived on our shores, and who have been developing traditional natal curries­ ever since. The curries are typically based on south Indian dishes. We are proud that Durban has the largest single population of Indians outside of India and has added affluence to our culture as well as culinary tourism.

We would be foolish to forget that Cape Malay cuisine is also an important part of our identity of South African culture and heritage it also promotes the tourist experience and the food once tasted is seldom forgotten.

When the Dutch colonised the Cape in the 1600s and 1700s they brought people from the East as slaves. These people had hard lives at the hands of the settlers which led to the Cape Malay­s establishing close bonds with one another and continuing their unique fascinating culture and belief system. This meant by adhering to Islam, their customs and cooking techniques were vastly different from others and still today most modern Cape Malays adhere to their traditional Islam roots.

Cape Malay food is characterised by strong aromatic flavours with complex ingredients, popular dishes include plenty of fish which makes sense having­ to rely on the sea since their arrival.

The aromas come from the cinnamon, saffron, tamarind, fruit and chilies­ that are widely used in their dishes.

In the days before adequate refrigeration the Cape Malays were forced to preserve many of their foods and several­ of their seafood dishes are salted and have become famous for their home-made chutneys and atchars.

Bread is also very important and rotis­ is almost always served as well as sambals to lessen the burn for children or those who prefer milder dishes.

The sambals usually include sweet chutney, tomato and onion relish, and plain yoghurt.

In essence because Cape Malay cooking does not feature much outside the Cape province it has become well known for its adventurous spicy dishes which include bobotie and snoek with apricot jam.

The varieties of curries are endless and it has more or less become a way of life whereby at least once a week we enjoy and savour a good curry whether it be butter chicken, or red roast duck curry, or chicken tikka masala.

The origins of curry are found in south-east Asian cuisines, whereby the common feature is the incorporation of complex combinations of spices and herbs where fresh or dried chilies almost always feature. The word “curry­” was adopted from the Tamil word “Kari” meaning sauce. Curries however, can be wet or dry, and may feature curry leaf. The selection of spices depends mainly on regional and cultural traditions however, family preferences are handed down from mother to daughter and usually are a closely guarded secret.

The spices can be whole or ground and are added to the dish at specific times during the cooking process to produce different results.

My bunny chow


•1 loaf white bread

•1 star anise

•1 cinnamon stick

•3 whole cardamom’s

•½ teaspoon fennel seed

•½ teaspoon cumin seed

•½ cup oil

•1 red onion finely chopped

•3 tablespoons garam masala

•1 teaspoon ground coriander

•1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

•2 teaspoons turmeric

•2 tomatoes chopped

•1 kg lamb cubes boneless

•5 garlic cloves finely chopped

•2 teaspoons ground ginger

•6 curry leaves

•2 lime leaves

•2 potatoes, cut into cubes

•2 bunches coriander


•In a pot with some oil fry the star anise, cinnamon stick, whole bruised cardamoms, fennel seed, cumin seed and onions.

•Add the garam masala, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and turmeric and fry till it forms a paste and starts to stick on the bottom of the pot

•Add the tomatoes and mix through

•Add the meat ginger, garlic, 1 bunch chopped coriander curry and lime leaves

•Add some water or stock and simmer until the meat is almost tender

•Add the potatoes and simmer till cooked and the meat is tender

•Add the rest of the coriander

•Cut the bread into half scoop out the flesh keep one side

•Ladle the curry into the hollowed out bread

•Keeping the scooped out bread to dip into the sauce


My garam masala

1 table spoon black peppercorns

1 tablespoon white peppercorns

1 teaspoon whole cloves

3 cinnamon sticks broken into pieces

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons cardamom pods

½ teaspoon caraway

½ cup coriander seeds

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seed

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons ground turmeric

In small batches dry fry all the ingredients till the aromas are released , taking care not to burn them, in a spice or coffee grinder process the spices and mix through until required


The word “curry­” was adopted from the Tamil word “Kari” meaning sauce. Curries however, can be wet or dry, and may feature curry leaf

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