Durban is home to one of the sunniest shores in South Africa, the largest Indian population outside of India and the best curries, friendly locals and, of course, the famous bunny chow. To make any Durban experience complete, you have to dig into this legendary street food.
While there are many stories about the origin of bunny chow, we do know that it first appeared during the Apartheid regime in KwaZulu-Natal. During this time, non-whites were not permitted to enter restaurants or cafés by the main entrance. This resulted in take-out meals being ordered from the back doors. A popular meal was beans and roti; however, the roti often fell apart, making the meal difficult to eat. A solution was therefore devised to hollow out loaves of bread as containers. A competing story goes that Indian golf caddies who could not get to Grey Street to buy lunch organised their friends to buy the curries for them and transport them in scooped-out loaves of bread. The third tale is that the bunny chow was invented as a filling, moveable meal for the Indian migrant workers who worked at sugar-cane plantations in KZN.
The name is a permutation of an Indian community known as the Bania. Their curries were known as Bania’s chow, which evolved to bunny chow.
The secret to a good bunny is amazing curry, with fresh and fluffy bread. The meal should be served hot with a carrot salad and/or pickles on the side, and the signature finishing touch: gravy dripping down the sides of the bread. Traditionally it’s enjoyed without cutlery, so get ready for the tastiest mess you’ve ever eaten.
Here’s my list of the top five spots for bunny chow in Durban:
This little gem is probably the most popular spot in Durban to have a bunny chow at the moment, thanks in part to its win of the 2016 Coca-Cola Bunny Chow Barometer Competition. You can expect friendly service and fresh food in this well-kept restaurant and takeaway. The bunnies on offer can be bought as quarter or a half loaves. The very filling quarter mutton bunny will cost you R49.90, the chicken R44.90, and broad beans or mixed veg R24.90. The prawn bunny is slightly more expensive at R69.90.
This is a modest little take away, nothing fancy, but they certainly do a good bunny chow. The curries are flavourful and spicy, and a good reflection of what a traditional Durban curry should be. The bunny menu is simple: Choose a quarter mutton bunny and Coke for R65, chicken bunny and Coke for R50, or beans bunny and Coke for R40.
The bunnies offered at Britannia are popular with the Durban locals who flock here for a quick lunch or family meal. They can be ordered from the restaurant, the sports bar or the convenient takeaway. What makes this spot special is the variety on offer. Choose from the range of exotic versions like the ones filled with trotters or tripe (both R59), or fillings like chops (price on request), mince (R85) and boneless mutton (R92). The traditional bunnies are also a hit and more affordable: mutton for R48, Cornish chicken for R42 or a sugar-bean bunny for only R20.
This family-run restaurant is slightly out of Durban but worth the drive, as the curries are excellent. The bunny chows are delicious, and come served in a special pot-like bread. Try the quarter lamb, chicken or kebab bunny for R62 or the traditional beans bunny for R42. The beautiful sea views add a special touch to the restaurant.
My Diners is a franchise specialising in Pakistani and various Asian-inspired cuisine. The bunny chows here contain a uniquely blended Pakistani-flavoured curry. They’re pricier but offer good value for money as the portions are generous. Quarter-loaf chicken bunnies are R56.95, mutton R63.95, beans R49.95, kebab R59.95 and veg R49.95. (Half and full loaves are also available.)
Because there’s almost a bunny chow spot on every corner of Durban, here are a few other places where you can indulge:
– Rocky Bunny at Lighthouse Mall, Umhlanga
– Cumin Café at 4 Lagoon Drive, Umhlanga
– Hollywood Bets and Bunny Bar at Intersite Avenue, Umgeni
– Patel’s Vegetarian Refreshment Room at 202 Dr Yusuf Dadoo Street (Grey Street)
– Danny’s House of Curries at Blue Lagoon
– Oriental Restaurant at 99 Samora Machel Street, The Workshop
Tell us about your favourite bunny chow in the comments below.
Alternatively, try making your own butter chicken bunny chow at home.