Modern Masala: South African “Street Food” Durban Bunny Chow Recipe

My school just got off of what we call spring break. Almost all of my friend went to some place far away and worry free, I was stuck at home doing nothing. This week I was inspired to make this dish by my boyfriend’s trip to South Africa (I was a little jealous). I wanted to feel like I had gone on the trip with him so I began researching and stumbled upon this amazing dish.

Before I begin talking about how great this dish was, I want to talk a bit about its history. In South Africa, this dish is often referred to as simply Bunny. Bunny originated around the time of WWII in a town called Durban. There are many stories behind how this dish came to be and one of my favorite is about an Indian immigrant that came to South Africa to work in sugarcane plantations. This story states that the immigrants needed to find a way to bring their lunch to work and they found that bread bowls were the easiest way to transport it.

Now as someone who is in love with bread, no shame. I don’t see any problems with using bread as a bowl, in fact, it is freaking genius. In my opinion, it’s more of a question as to why don’t we have silverware made out of bread. Anyway, when I found out that this recipe was more of an Indian dish that originated in Africa, I was all for it. After my Monsoon Black-Eyed Pea Curry dish, I was up for the challenge of making a better curry. This recipe does use chicken in it; however, the original dish from what I found used beans instead. To imitate what it may have been like in the 40s, I substituted the chicken with a can of chickpeas.

This dish had more spices listed as ingredients than I know colors, but that is beside the point. Once I gathered all the spices and mixed them together in a bowl, I felt like I could have easily been in a plain of Africa. I did this first because I wanted to be able to make my house smell like spices, and this actually worked to my surprise. Next, I cut up the onions and potatoes and through them in a pot with the whole spices (cardamom, curry leaves, and cinnamon). While I let those cook and make my house smell even more delicious, I diced up some tomatoes and minced some garlic. Once everything was cut and thrown into the pot, it was a waiting game. I have experienced some long 30 minutes before in my life, but this was one of the most excruciating 30 minutes I had experienced in a while. It was like sitting in a field of puppies and not being allowed to touch them.

After being tortured, I was finally able to touch my bunny. Into the bowl, it went, though it didn’t stay there very long. The minute that this curry touched my lips I felt like all of my worries had just melted away. Trust me I have got a lot of them. The only thing that I didn’t like was the fact that I feel like there was too much potato. This could easily be fixed by using less potato. All in all, I would give this recipe a 9.5/ 10 because there were just too many potatoes.IMG_2332IMG_2329IMG_2323


Whole Spices Step 1

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 whole cardamom pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled curry leaves
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly diced
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

Durban Masala

  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 treaspoon ground mace

Bunny Chow Curry

  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 450g chicken, skinned and boned, breasts of thighs (cut into cubes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 large curry leaves
  • 150mls chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 whole loaf of white bread (cut in half and the into quarters, with the middle hollowed out to make a)


  • fresh coriander to garnish


My take on the traditional South African street food dish, “Bunny Chow”; although this was originally made with beans and vegetables, and it more often than not made with lamb or mutton nowadays, I have made this recipe with chicken. This recipe is fun to serve and is extremely filling and tasty. I created this recipe as part of my contribution as a “Spice Ambassador” for Schwartz UK and The Flavour Forecast with McCormicks’ Flavour of Together campaign, as part of their 125th anniversary celebrations. My Flavour Story can be seen here: Karen Burns-Booth Flavour Story


Step 1 Put the oil, whole spices, onion and potatoes into a large pan with a lid and fry over a gentle heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
Step 2 Mix the dry Durban Masala ingredients together.
Step 3 Add the chopped tomatoes, chicken pieces, garlic, curry leaves and the Durban masala mix to the whole spices, onion and potato mixture and mix well. Heat over a low heat for 1 minute before adding the stock (water can be used too). Cover and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and the chicken is cooked.
Step 4 When you are ready to serve the Bunny Chow, place the prepared bread on a plate or a large napkin and ladle the curry into the cavity of the bread “bowls”. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with sambals on the side.
Step 5 The bread: the best loaf for the bread bowls is a unsliced, rectangular white loaf (called Government Sandwich Loaf in South Africa). Cut the top off the loaf, and keep to one side and then cut the main loaf into quarters or halves, depending on the size. Serve with the top of the bread (cut into handy pieces) which is used as a “dipping” utensil. Bread rolls can also be used. Cut into the bread with a knife to make a border and then scoop the inside bread crumbs out – keep them for other recipes. I made my own small white loaf for this recipe.

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