To start with, it’s not rabbit food. A rabbit with a sophisticated palate would love to eat it… but it’s for human consumption. It’s got nothing to do with humans eating rabbits, either. Rabbit lovers can breathe a sigh of relief, there are much tastier meats involved here.
What locals call ‘bunny’ is a crazy South African dish that is a product of the complex cultural melting pot South Africa was and is today. It’s also delicious.
So, imagine putting curry into a tall, square Tupperware container. Now imagine if that Tupperware container were made of bread, and you’ve got bunny chow! Simply put: it’s a hollowed out quarter-loaf of bread filled with curry. Let that sink in… like curry slowly seeping into a wall of bread, filling it with warmth and flavor.
First, you’ll wonder how long it’ll take before you can put some of this stuff in your mouth. Then, you might ask: what the hell is curry doing all the way on the southern tip of Africa? Curry isn’t an African dish.
Fear not, we’ve got the answers. It’s time for a little bunny chow history!
In the 1840’s the British Empire fought the Afrikaners and the Zulu to set up a colony and sugar cane industry in and around the city of Durban. By the time they annexed the land, nobody was too fond of them and nobody would toil on their plantations (go figure).
Their solution was to send indentured servants from India (another British colony) to do the work instead. The result was the growth of a massive Indian population in Durban and the co-mingling of Indian, British and African cuisine. Fast forward 100 years with no roti and no good way to transport or complement curry, and you get bunny chow. It’s cheap, easy to carry, and (I can’t stress this enough) it’s a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry.
We suppose it could have just been called a “hollowed-out-bread-loaf-filled-with-curry-thing,” but that doesn’t roll off the tongue so well. The most popular theory addressing the origin of bunny chow’s non-sequitur of a name suggests that the first restaurant to serve bunny was owned and operated by folks called Banias, as in the Indian caste ‘Banias.’
If you’ve ever heard a South African accent, you’ll understand how ‘Banias’ could turn into ‘bunny.’ Sometimes, the universe is kind in these ways…
So what have we learned?
1) South African culture is an awesome hodgepodge… a melting pot capable of creating things like the curry loaf, the almighty bunny chow.
2) The next month of your life will involve an extensive investigation into the future acquisition of bunny chow.
3) Somewhere in South Africa, there is a gigantic landfill made up of the innards of bread loaves.
If you’re still reading this, you need to get out of your seat and hunt down some chow!