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Bunny Chow – South African street food

Posted on May 12, 2010 by in lamb

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Bunny Chow! What more can I teach you about this hot and spicy tummy filler? Jeanne the Cooksister has made it, Juno from Scrumptious South Africa has made cute little bite-size bunny chows so this might be all old news to you, but in case you have missed out on this popular street food, stay a while and learn all there is to know about this filling grab-and-go meal.

We are in the final month before the Fifa Soccer Extravaganzakicks off here in South Africa and restaurants, guesthouses and fast food outlets are stocking their pantries to the brim to be able to showcase what South Africa has to offer.
Although a bunny chow is hardly a meal you will order at one of our top restaurants, make sure you grab one on-the-go.
A Bunny Chow can only be eaten with your hands, from there the name originated. “Bunny” because you are eating with your hands like a rabbit and the  word Chow, was a slang word used for food. Bunny Chow originated in the KwaZulu Natal region amongst the first Indians who came to this region to work in the sugar fields. Indian workers did not have the time to make the traditional Indian breads and were exposed to the western breads to have with their curries. Because it took too much time and effort to cart all the different containers with curries to work, they cut the bread loaf in half, hollowed the soft part of the bread and filled it with their choice of curry. A nutritious and filling meal, all in one parcel. 
We are not Indian and we were not on the street grabbing a on-the-go-meal, but when I presented my family with a bunny chow each for supper the other night, I wish I had my camera handy to capture the look on their faces. The first question that popped out was:  “Mom, with what do I eat this?” Second question: “What the heck is this?”……  Last question: “Why are we having this?” It was at that moment that I dissapeared into the scullery to to re-appear with another South African invention…the Vuvuzela!!!!!!!!  My family knew immediately, what  their meal was all about! Street foods of South Africa.

In case you are interested. A vuvuzela, or a stadium horn is a plastic horn, about 1 meter in length and it is blown by South African soccer supporters at games.The origin of the name is disputed. It may originate from the Zulu for “making noise,” from the “vuvu” sound it makes, or from township slang related to the word for “shower.
Bunny Chow with Lamb Curry
2 white loaves of bread – halved(big appetites) or quartered(smaller appetites).
1 kg mutton – neck or knuckles (or beef cubes)
1 Tbs curry powder
1 thumb size piece root ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 stick cinnamon
1 star anise
1 medium onion, chopped.
1 red pepper, diced
2 Tbs vegetable oil.
2 cups vegetable or mutton stock
2 Tbs tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

In a big cast iron pot, saute onion, garlic and all spices in oil.
Add meat and brown.
Add stock and put lid on.
Simmer until meat is tender. Add potatoes and cook until done.

Now make the following sauce

1 level Tbs flour
1 tsp curry powder
3 Tbs chutney
3 Tbs good Tomato ketchup
3 Tbs vinegar
3 Tbs apricot jam

Stir sauce into stew and cook through. Add seasoning to taste. Now hollow out the quarter or half loaf, leaving some bread at the base. Spread the inside lavishly with butter and fill to the brim with hot spicy curry.
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21 Responses to “Bunny Chow – South African street food”

  1. Sam 12 May 2010 at 10:52 am #

    Nou is ek behoorlik lus, hoor! Especially in this weather. You make even the most traditional street food look gourmet. Lovely 🙂

    • simone 8 November 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      ek maak dit somer nou dadelik

  2. Juno 12 May 2010 at 11:02 am #

    I actually want to bury my face in this bunny, Nina! Your curry is exactly what I feel like eating RIGHT now. Thanks for the mention.

  3. Marisa 12 May 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    Nina, I had to laugh at the thought of you emerging from the scullery tooting your vuvuzela! I'm sure the neighbours wouldn't have been too impressed.

    Your bunny chow looks very authentic – just like they make them in Durban.

  4. glamah16 12 May 2010 at 9:01 pm #

    I wish I could be there for the games.

  5. Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen 13 May 2010 at 12:16 am #

    This looks so good! I love the name too!

  6. Jan 13 May 2010 at 11:31 am #

    Like Jenn said – I love the name! Looks amazing!

  7. Junglefrog 13 May 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    That is one very good looking and tasty looking bunny! And your vuvuzela (I had heard the name before but had no idea what it was!!) looks good too.. :))

  8. elra 14 May 2010 at 3:53 am #

    I regret that I had not any chance to taste this when I was in CT. Yours look superb Nina!

  9. Maria 14 May 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    Ooh, that is some wonderful looking street food! Love the flavors of that and I wish I could nibble on some right now.

  10. MeetaK 19 May 2010 at 11:01 am #

    nina! absolutely delicious! i cannot even begin to tell you how succulent that is looking to me right now!

  11. mycookinghut 20 May 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    Oh yumm… looks really good.. curry and bun.. good combo!

  12. 26 May 2010 at 4:36 am #

    yummy! It is raining cats and dogs here today – such a lovely (heart) warming dish would be perfect

  13. Sam 1 June 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    On my way back home from work today I'm definitely stopping off in town in Durbs to pick one up! It's been a while since I've had one – the best!! Thanks for reminding me!

  14. Kia 22 March 2011 at 2:57 am #

    Lamb is good theyre very tasty and healthy too.

  15. Anonymous 3 November 2011 at 12:50 am #


    Im an indian, from Durban South Africa.

    Firstly, nice attempt at a Bunny…

    Secondly, The bunny is not a street food, there are many restaurants that serve it at a table with plate..

    Thirdly, it is not called a bunny because you eat like a rabbit LMAO!! It was from the Banya Caste of Indian people who were merchants and invented the dish because they were not allowed in apartheid days to serve people of colour in their restaurants…therefore it was usually sold to them in this manner through the back of the restaurant…

    It is a meal with a culture and history attached..just thought i would inform you of this…



    • Michael 28 June 2017 at 2:14 am #

      Hi Michelle,

      Also from Durbs, been in Sydney for last 30 years. Fond memories of inhaling a bunny on the beach, great to hear the correct etymology.


      • nerinatimm 4 July 2017 at 6:30 am #

        Thank you Michael, now you can make your own……

  16. Rachelle 9 June 2012 at 4:20 am #

    Hallo Sr…gaan dit vir my "familie" hier maak in VSA…hoop myne kom helfte so lekker uit soos joune 😉

    Liefde, Sr Robbertse

  17. Sharon 23 April 2013 at 2:54 am #

    My significant other is from South Africa. I am looking for a Bread recipe to make the bread to hold the “bunny chow” does anyone have a south african bread recipe?


  1. Traditional African Food Recipes: Top 6 Favorite Dishes - iCookDifferent - December 30, 2016

    […] Bunny Chow is the perfect comfort food when you need to chase away hunger and enjoy a delicious dish. It is a dish that is common in Africa as a street dish, so it is not complicated at all to prepare at home. And when you think that you can eat it with your hands, you know that it will be scrumptious. Don’t hesitate to try it out, because you will end up loving these flavors. Diversify your menu with this recipe here. […]

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