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

image Bunny Chow

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

Modern Masala:

South African “Street Food” Durban Bunny Chow


Modern Masala: South African "Street Food" Durban Bunny Chow Recipe

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

I love Indian inspired food, curries, street food and anything that is spicy and can be eaten with your hands! I was raised on curries, and my dad is famous for his curry recipes, as well as mum who makes the most amazing Cape Malay Pickled Fish and Curry Puffs, so it is no surprise that when I was creating my “Flavour Story” for the McCormick’s site, my story was heavily laced with curry powder, chillies and masala. As part of their 125th anniversary, McCormick asked 125 food writers and bloggers from all over the world to share their “Flavour Story”, and I am very pleased and proud to say that I was one of those 125 global writers. You can see my flavour story here: Karen S Burns-Booth Flavour Story, but for now here is a small excerpt:

…..”Spices and herbs have been woven through my life ever since I can remember – like the beautifully faded threads in an old family sampler or a Persian rug, most of my childhood and adult memories are based around food and the flavours that made those events so memorable. From my earliest days when I lived in South Africa to more recent times spent at my home in SW France, spices in particular have been essential to my daily menu planning and have injected heat, warmth, fragrance and taste into the meals I cook for my family and friends”… more

Flavor Forecast | McCormick

Flavor Forecast | McCormick

As part of my “Schwartz Flavour Ambassador” commitment, I was asked to develop a recipe that highlights one of the new flavour forecasts for 2014, of which there are five Top Trends:

Chillies Obsession: Food lovers everywhere are seeking out their next big chilli thrill.
Modern Masala: Indian food is finally having its moment, breaking free of its traditional confines with modern interpretations.
Clever Compact Cooking: Proving that big flavours can come from small spaces, cooks in urban kitchens are making the most of what’s available.
Mexican World Tour: Mexican flavours are making their way around the globe, with people everywhere discovering new aspects of this bright, casual cuisine.
 Charmed by Brazil: The world’s attraction to Brazilian cuisine is heating up, thanks to its seductive mix of global and native influences.

image Bunny Chow

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

I decided to go back to my roots and develop a South African recipe, one that is as modern and relevant today as it was when it was first served in the depression of the 1930’s in Durban, “Bunny Chow”, or “Bunny” as it is called locally. Despite its name, there are NO bunnies in this curry, and in fact the original recipe was vegetarian and was made with sugar beans and potatoes, but nowadays you are more likely to be offered a “bunny” made from lamb or mutton. The origins of this dish are fairly sketchy, with many tales and myths about just how it got its name, but, my South African friend Zuri says this……

“This is a story: with a recipe. During the Great Depression in 1933 Indians, whites and Chinese in Durban, South Africa, suffered hunger like everyone else. The kids then discovered that the cheapest curry they could buy (for a quarter penny or half a penny) was made by a vegetarian Indian caste known in Durban slang as the Bania. It was made from dried sugarbeans (no meat). The children didn’t have plates, and one kid got the bright idea to hollow out a quarter bread, asked the seller to put the bean curry in the hollowed-out bread, and then used the broken bread he’s taken out as a sort of eating utensil. Chinese food was called “chow”. Somehow the two words came together: Bania Chow. In time it simply became known as Bunny Chow. Bunny Chow was what the Indian sugar plantation workers took as their day’s food to the lands: curry in hollowed-out bread halves. Cheap and practical … Today it does not matter what your skin colour or station in life is: Durbanites and people from the Kwa-Zulu-Natal province love their bunny chow … For this story he managed to get from “the mysterious Lingela” who makes bunny chows daily, I am indebted to “Kitchenboy”. Should he happen upon this story, he’ll know who he is … Thanks, Braam!”…….

Modern Masala: South African "Street Food" Durban Bunny Chow Recipe

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

My recipe for “bunny” (you never refer to it as bunny chow, the locals simply call it bunny”) is made with chicken and potatoes and a “Durban Masala” mixture I created for this recipe, and one which I will be making again in the future for other curry recipes as it is amazingly fragrant with a warm, seductive heat. As part of an authentic bunny is the bread loaf, and as I am in France at the moment where it is impossible to buy a “white unsliced”, I made my own white bread loaf for this recipe.

Modern Masala: South African "Street Food" Durban Bunny Chow Recipe

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

Bunny is always eaten as if it was street food in your home, with your hands, and just to be authentic, we did enjoy this with our hands, albeit it on a plate to catch the juices and bread crumbs! If you want to make this vegetarian, then just omit the meat and add beans, or if you fancy something meatier, than use beef or lamb……it’s really just curry in a bread bowl! I can see this being a fabulous recipe to serve for friends and family at a large gathering, or why not serve it as part of a summer “braai” with boerewors and  sosaties? I hope you enjoy my version of “Bunny” if you make it, and don’t forget to pop over to read all of the Flavour Stories here: McCormick Flavour Stories. That’s all for today, see you soon with another Masala recipe for Chip Week! Karen

*Sponsored Post* 

Bunny Chow

South African “Street Food” Bunny Chow

Serves 4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hour, 15 minutes
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
Occasion Barbecue, Casual Party
Region African
By author Karen S Burns-Booth
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.


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.

Modern Masala: South African "Street Food" Durban Bunny Chow Recipe

South African “Street Food” Durban Bunny Chow Recipe

Modern Masala: South African "Street Food" Durban Bunny Chow Recipe

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

A vegetarian recipe based in the original “Bunny: 

Recipe for Beans Bunny Chow

Homemade Bread Loaf

Homemade Bread Loaf

Another South African Recipe:

Zuri’s South African Picnic Bread

Bunny Chow Recipe

Bunny Chow

image Bunny Chow

Bunny Chow

Bunny Chow

Bunny Chow

 Flavour Together

Flavour of Together – raising $1.25 million to help feed those in need.

Schwartz is part of the global family of McCormick flavour brands who have been making the flavours people love for 125 years.

The flavours you share with your family and friends. The flavours that have been passed down through generations. The flavours that we remember. The flavours that shape our lives.

To celebrate this special occasion, we’re bringing people across the world together to share flavour stories – and help feed those in need. We’re asking you to share your stories about flavour, and for each story that is shared, McCormick will donate $1 to help feed those in need.

In 2014, we will collect 1.25m stories and raise up to a total of $1.25million for United Way and their partners worldwide.

While you’re sharing your stories with us, we’ll share our best stories with you. All year long, we’ll be celebrating the hottest trends in the culinary world through the McCormick® Flavour Forecast® 2014: 125th Anniversary Edition. Through videos, pictures, and testimonials from flavour experts, we’ll spend all year sharing captivating tips, recipes and stories. And we hope you’ll do the same!

About Focus on Food – Our UK ‘Flavour of Together’ charity partner

In the UK, the proceeds of Schwartz’ 125th Anniversary charity efforts will be donated to Focus on Food.

Focus on Food is a charitable food education programme that believes practical cooking skills are essential for healthy, happy lives. We support schools and communities to run hands-on cooking sessions through offering training, resources, equipment and inspirational Cooking Bus visits.

Our work is especially important today in the face of the obesity crisis, growing health inequalities and a gap in skills and knowledge around food, nutrition and cooking. We aim to reach those communities that need us most, and team up with like-minded partners to make a real, long-lasting impact.

Flavour Ambassadors

In the UK renowned Indian chef, Cyrus Todiwala and leading food writer & blogger, Karen Burns-Booth will be Schwartz and McCormick flavour ambassadors and share their flavour stories.

Karen Burns-Booth

Karen Burns-Booth is a creative freelance food writer and blogger with a passion for local and seasonal produce. Her love of seasonal food and recipes stems from her early childhood whilst observing her grandmother and mother’s cookery skills, both in rural Northumberland and whilst living overseas in South Africa and Hong Kong. More about Karen >

Cyrus Todiwala

From ‘chef of genius’ to ‘creator of the classiest curries in the City’ – this Bombay-born Parsee chef has been called all manner of good things. After leaving a secure Executive Chef role in the Taj Group of Hotels in Goa 21 years ago to start again in the UK, Cyrus’ entrepreneurial spirit required him to be brave and daring to combine flavours, spices and ingredients in ways no other Indian chef has done before. More about Cyrus >

Modern Masala: South African "Street Food" Durban Bunny Chow Recipe

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


  1. says

    such an intriguing recipe and a really informative post, the curry in a loaf idea is inspired and when I’ve lost a few pounds I am going to indulge myself!!

  2. says

    Oh Karen – I could regale you with stories of eating Bunny Chow in Durban! What a trip down memory lane this article has given me. Glorious. Now I am certainly going to make this dish for my kids as chances are they will never make it to Durban but I can bring Durban to them. Thank you.

  3. says

    Hello Karen, so lovely to see you championing spices in this way, well done you!

    I first first tried this wonderfully fragrant dish in it’s vegetarian form in South Africa, I was quite taken aback by the amount of cardamon though it works well with bread and the curry leaves. I like your presentation too xx

    • says

      Thanks Deena, I love the cardamom in this curry, but as you say, it is quite strong ! We loved it with my homemade bread and I agree that the curry leaves add a fabulous fragrance and flavour. Karen

  4. Liz Thomas says

    HI Karen,

    I too spent a few years in SA in the mid ’70’s!

    Love your pics with the Cimarosa Pinotage. I’m in France now and at this very moment have a glass of it in my hand purchased from Lidl Bretenoux! Will be having a long read of your modern masala post. Thanks very much.

    • says

      Hi Liz! Snap! That’s where I got my Pinotage from too, Lidl in Saintes! Hope you enjoy my post and recipe when you read of later, and cheers! Karen

      • Liz Thomas says

        Great isn’t it! And a good price too. One thing, no matter where I have looked I cannot for the life of me find chilli flakes. Plenty of chilli powder and cayenne but not flakes and I like flakes as I am a timid chilli user and find that I can control the heat better using them.

        Off to Macau next month so will have to buy up a stock!


        • says

          I have never found chilli flakes too Liz, I always bring them back from the UK! If you fancy a trip up here, you are very welcome to stay for the night and have dinner etc! Karen

          • Liz Thomas says

            Hi Karen,

            Sorry for late reply, been a bit hectic with the rennovations and financing of same! Would absolutely love to visit you. Been looking up where you are and in sounds lovely. Will send you an email to your contact address with more news rather than bore everyone here!


    • says

      Thanks Lizzy! I have known of Bunny Chow ever since my early days in South Africa, but have never actually eaten it at home, or attempted to make it home, this was a huge success however and I plan to make this again for an outdoor South African themed meal in the summer! Karen

  5. says

    Looks wonderful and I do like the robust flavours and relaxed eating that comes with Indian street food – eating it out of a loaf definitely encourages relaxed eating, I love it!

    • says

      Thanks Andrea, it was an amazing way to eat curry and the joy was all the more amplified with the curry soaked bread crusts were left with! Karen

  6. says

    I first read about Bunny Chow last year in a food magazine. It’s such a fascinating recipe, I love the idea of using the bread half as a ‘plate’ rather than using formal crockery! Street food is always so entrenched in history, flavour and culture. I always love eating from street sellers whenever I travel. Thanks for sharing the story with us Karen. Love the idea of this McCormick/Schwartz ‘flavour ambassador’ initiative, it’s for a great cause which definitely makes me want to jump on board. Loved your flavour story. I will definitely try this recipe too! xx

    • says

      Thanks so much Laura!
      I have known about Bunny Chow for some years, but I have never made it at home, and I must admit to being a bit of a bunny addict now! It was a delicious curry and as you say, a great way to eat it with the bread…..we used no cutlery and enjoyed the rather tactile experience!
      Growing up in Hong Kong opened my eyes to street food and some of the best Chinese food I have ever eaten was simple street food fare from stalls and shacks in HK……beautifully cooked in a flash and served al fresco with nothing more than a napkin (if you were lucky) to mop up the juices or wipe your mouth!
      I am also delighted that you approve of the McCormick/Schwartz ‘flavour ambassador’ initiative – I hope that lots of people jump aboard and share their stories for the benefit of charities.

    • says

      I can understand that, but as a naan bread lover and as I was introduced to street food at an early age, this is just the sort of recipe and food I love Fiona!

  7. says

    Hey Karen, first of all, I love the bread bowls. Second, these photos made me really happy and it’s because they’re noticeably your photographs, but they also manage to look like you’ve changed it up a bit. I think that’s really neat.

  8. says

    What a lovely recipe and fantastic story behind it. I’ve never heard of Bunny Chow but I would happily eat a bowl of that spicy goodness. I love how it is comes inside a loaf…genius! Excellent entry for McCormick’s 125th anniversary.

  9. says

    Hi there,

    I saw the photo for this dish on Foodgawker, and had to come here to look at it! I spent time in South Africa as a teenager, working with the homeless. We served much “Bunny”, and got the chance to try it often. Of course, ours didn’t look as beautiful, as we would just take a whole loaf of bread, rip it in half, rip the middle out, fill ‘er up with curry, and plop the middle bread back on top. I honestly have been telling people about this ingenious dish ever since (it’s been 12 years!). It actually makes me want to cry thinking of the time I spent there, it was an experience I will never forget! Thank you for the beautiful photos, the fantastic recipe, and for bringing back many memories!

    • says

      Awww, thanks so much Amy-Lyn, your comments have made my day and I am so pleased that my recipe and images have brought back happy and fulfilling memories too….your work with the homeless is exemplary and I can imagine that a big serving of “bunny” would fill their tummies too! Karen :-)

  10. says

    Well done on being a ‘Flavour Ambassador’, what a fabulous title! Love this recipe, and loved hearing all about the history behind ‘bunny’ which is totally new to me. Sounds a delightful spice mix for a curry too, lovely post.

    • says

      Thanks Lou, I was thrilled to be asked to be a “flavour ambassador” and as you know, I love my herbs and spices! Karen

  11. says

    I am blogging about Bunny Chow today

    It brings back memories …good memories, in those days we didn’t have enough money for lunch, so Bunny Chow was the only meal that was affordable and filled you all day sustaining you for miles that you had to walk home

    I grew up in South Africa – Port Elizabeth now known as Nelson Mandela Bay

    Thanks Karen for evoking my memory and tantalizing my taste buds

    I haven’t had one in 20 years


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *