Last Updated on December 6, 2023 by Carne Diem
Origin: South African, African
Method: StovetopJump to Recipe
Hollowed out loaves of bread are filled with spicy curry in this popular South African street food.
Table of contents
History of Bunny Chow
Despite the name, this recipe does not involve bunnies or rabbit in any form. Bunny chow is a curry specialty originating in the coastal city of Durban, South Africa. The term Bunny chow seems to originate from the Sanskrit word "bania" meaning merchant.
There is some argument as to how the dish originated. Some argue that the dish became popular as a meal served to beggars at the end of the day. Left over curry was stuffed into day old bread and given to the beggars. Other's feel it was developed out of necessity among an oppressed population during the apartheid.
Regardless of the origin, Bunny Chow remains a popular dish in the region today. This street food can be found using an assortment of different curries and proteins. For our version we elected to use cubed all white chicken breasts
Preparing the South African Bunny Chow
We have tried a few different curries for the bunny chow, but our favorite has been derived from a Durban curry recipe on Spruce Eats. The recipe below makes a mildly spicy curry but to make it more authentic double the amount of cayenne pepper in the dish and/or add some crushed pepper flakes. In it's true form, Durban style curry is quite spicy.
The Durban Curry spice mixture
Combine your spices for the Durban curry and mix together in a bowl. If you are using green cardamom pods, add them in with the spice mix. We find the addition of the cardamom pods and curry leaves really helps round out the curry, but if you are unable to find them they can be omitted.
For the curry powder used, try to find a Madras curry or other Indian style curry powder. Avoid Thai style red curry powder if possible.
Prep the vegetables
Dice the onion, garlic, ginger, potatoes, and tomatoes and set aside.
Cooking the Durban Style Chicken Curry
In a Dutch oven, pot or skillet, heat the ghee and olive oil, over low-medium heat, until melted. If you do not have Ghee, regular butter can be substituted.
Next, add in the spice mix, stirring constantly, until the spices are lightly browned and fragrant. Take care to make sure the spices do not begin to burn.
Next, stir in the onion, garlic, and ginger into the spiced mix and stir to coat the veggies well. Continue to cook until the onion is soft and cooked through, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add in the chicken. Stir to coat the chicken in the seasoning. Continue to cook the chicken until it is evenly browned but not cooked through.
Finally, add in the tomato, tomato paste, diced potato, chicken stock and curry leaves, if using. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, partially covered. If the curry becomes too thick, add in a bit more chicken stock.
The curry is done when the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are soft.
Finishing the Bunny Chow
While the chicken curry is cooking, halve and hollow out your bread loaves. Reserve the removed bread to make bread crumbs for another recipe.
We like this recipe because it gives us an excuse to make some homemade bread. You can also use store bought bread, or can substitute a round loaf if you have trouble finding unsliced white bread loaves.
Finally, fill the hollowed out bread loaves with the warm curry.
Garnish with some cilantro and serve with a side of sambal to spice up the dish even more. Traditionally, bunny chow is a hand held dish and the mere thought of using silverware is frowned upon, but the choice is all yours.
If you are interested in exploring more African cuisine, check out our family friendly recipe for Ground Nut (Peanut) Stew. For more great curry recipes from around the world be sure to try our Roasted Chicken and Shrimp Curry Stuffed Coconuts, Thai Red Chicken Curry, British Chicken Tikka Masala, South African Beef Bobotie and Northern Indian Butter Chicken.
Frequently Asked Questions
South African bunny is a hollowed-out loaf of bread that is typically filled with curry dishes like Durban chicken curry.
Durban style curry can be quite spicy and does not typically include sweet ingredients that may be found in other curries. Spice levels of the dish can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the chili pepper in the dish.
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Bunny Chow: Durban style chicken curry
- Skillet, pot, or Dutch oven
- 2 loaves White Bread Halved and hollowed out
- 1 pound Chicken Breasts cubed
- 2 Tablespoon Ghee
- 2 teaspoon Olive Oil
- 1 White Onion diced
- 2 Tomatoes chopped
- 2 Potatoes peeled and diced
- 1 inch Ginger finely diced
- 4 Garlic Cloves finely chopped on minced
- 2 teaspoon Tomato Paste
- 1 cup Chicken Stock
- Cilantro for garnish
- 2 Sprigs Curry Leaves Optional
- 2 teaspoon Curry Powder
- 2 teaspoon Ground Coriander
- 2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- ½ teaspoon Cayenne Double for a spicier curry
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 3 Green Cardamom Pods (optional) lightly smashed
- Combine the spice mixture ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- Dice the onion, potatoes, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes.
- Cube the chicken breasts into roughly ½ inch cubes.
- Heat the ghee and olive oil in a dutch oven or large skillet, over low-medium heat, until melted.
- Stir in the spice mix and stir constantly until the spices are lightly browned and fragrant.
- Stir in the onion, garlic, and ginger and stir to combine. Continue to cook until the onion is soft and cooked through, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and add in the chicken. Stir to coat the chicken in the seasoning then continue to cook until the chicken is evenly browned but not cooked through.
- Add in the tomato, tomato paste, diced potato and chicken stock. If using curry leaves, add them in now. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, partially covered, until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are fork tender. If the curry becomes too thick, add in a bit more chicken stock.
- Cut your bread loaf(ves) in half. Create bowls by cutting or pulling out the center for the finished curry to go in.
- Fill the bread loaves with the warm curry and dig in. No utensils required.
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