South African Bunny Chow

Cook the World: South African Bunny Chow

South African Bunny Chow

As most of you know, my daughter Grace and I are working our away around the world (well, at least the map in my office) on a journey to cook a dish from all 257 countries. Each week she picks a country from the map and we research the food of that nation and pick a traditional dish that we want to try.

We shop and cook together, and maybe even work in a side trip to an ethnic market or food-truck, once in a while. We post our processes, notes, and maybe a brief anecdote, but mostly it’s about the recipes.

Last week, we visited Brazil and whipped up a nice pot of Moqueca, or Brazilian Fish Stew.

This week, we’re going take a look at the South Africa, “fast food” Bunny Chow. First of all, take a deep breath….there is no bunny in “bunny chow” 😉

South African Bunny Chow

IMG_8822 (768x1024)Bunny chow, often referred to as “a bunny”, is a hugely popular South African fast food dish consisting of a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry. One story has it that a people known as Banias (an Indian caste) first created the scooped-out bread and curry dish at a restaurant-cum-cafe called Kapitan’s on the corner of Victoria and Albert streets in Durban.

The dish was a means to serve take-out to excluded people as, during the apartheid regime, Indians were not allowed in certain shops and cafes, so the shop owners found a way of serving the people through back windows, etc. This was an easy and effective way to serve the workers.

Another story opines that the origin of this hand-held dish was due to Indian golf caddies not being allowed to carry cutlery during apartheid.

Regardless of its origins, this delicious snack can be found in hocker centers and street stands all over South Africa. Bunny chows are mainly eaten using the fingers; it is unusual to see locals use utensils when eating this dish, and it’s typically served to customers wrapped in the previous day’s newspaper.

IMG_8826 (729x1024)Bunny Chow
3 lbs beef shank (or beef cheek)
2 Tbsp. Bombay curry powder
1/2 cup butter
1 onion, sliced thin
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
5 cloves
4 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tomatoes, diced
1/8 t cayenne
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1/2 C water
1 lb cubed hash-brown potatoes
8 large dinner rolls

South African Bunny Chow

Salt beef shanks liberally, and coat with 2 tsps. curry powder. Wrap everything tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to overnight.

South African Bunny Chow

In a large sauté pan set over high heat, brown the beef in 3 tablespoons of butter.

Remove the beef to a plate and reserve, and return the pan to the stove.

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Add the remaining butter with the fat in the pan, lower the heat to medium, and sauté the onions.

Stir constantly, until the onions are completely soft and browned—about 15–20 minutes.

South African Bunny Chow

Add the ginger, garlic, cloves, cardamom, fennel, and cumin to the pan, and sauté for a minute. Then add the tomatoes, cayenne, remaining curry powder, cinnamon, bay leaves, and water. Season with a teaspoon of salt, and bring to a simmer.

South African Bunny Chow

Drop the heat to low and add the browned beef. Cover and cook for 2 hours.

South African Bunny Chow

While the beef braises, pre-heat the oven 400°F. Roast the potatoes on baking sheet, until they turn a light shade of golden brown and are crispy..

South African Bunny Chow

After one and one-half hours, the tomatoes in the braise should have mostly collapsed into the sauce and the beef should be almost completely tender.

South African Bunny Chow

Add the potatoes to the curry braise and cook for another 45 minutes. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature and store for a week in the fridge.

South African Bunny Chow

When ready to serve, hollow out the center of each dinner roll, by pulling out large chunks of bread with your fingers. Leave enough bread so that the roll stays intact.

South African Bunny Chow

Fill the cavity with curry, top with Carrot Salad, and serve with the excavated chunks of bread on the side for dipping.

South African Bunny Chow

Carrot Salad

2 carrots, peeled, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
¼ bunch coriander, chopped,
2 long green chilies (optional), finely chopped
1 tbsp white vinegar

Meanwhile, to make carrot salad, combine all ingredients in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

South African Carrot Salad