It is amazing just how many foreign visitors to Durban ask me about the “bunny chow”. I forget that with the world wide web anyone can get the skinny about a place you’re intending to visit, but often I’m just caught by surprise when I ask guests what they want for lunch and they reply, “a bunny chow” – I mean who told them?
The humble bunny chow is synonymous with Durban. I remember sitting in Farewell Square way back in the late 80’s, tucking into a bunny chow along with a office workers, blue collar workers, policeman, medics, and all of different races!
Personally I love a beans bunny, and like many other Durbanites I have my favorite take-away’s to get a bunny chow from. While I was in trade school (yup, I’m a plumber by trade) I would get a bunny from just around the corner in Umbilo. After a night out, Sunrise Chip and Ranch in Overport would be the spot.
Today of course the humble bunny chow has risen (see what I did there?) from a messy street food for the masses to fine-dining dish at 5-star restaurants. But where exactly did a bunny chow come from? Who was the genius that one day scooped out the inside of a freshly baked loaf of bread and spooned in delicious fragrant curry?
No one knows.
Or do they?
The Humble Bunny Chow – The Early Days
Way back in the early days of Durban’s history, but some time after the 1860’s when the first Indentured Indians arrived, there were no paper plates, polystyrene and so forth. They were however a number of little Indian stores called “Bania’s”. Banias were a little like the corner cafe’s that are found everywhere, they sold cooked meals, homemade sweets and other treats.
Some where in the 1920’s one particular Bania store started offering something a little different.
Many Indians worked as grounds keepers on the golf courses, or as caddies. And everyday around lunchtime they would need a hearty meal to keep their strength and energy up. Now it’s not so easy for a wife or store even to send out a freshly prepared meal to the men, what do you carry it in? Not so much Tupperware floating about in the 1920’s.
Well this one particular shop hit on the idea of using a load of bread as the vessel in which to transport lunch. Scoop out the inside of a loaf of bread and spoon in curry, put the scooped out bit back on top and all of a sudden you have a biodegradable, environmentally safe container.
And the really genius bit? You can use days old bread for the job which will soak up all the delicious gravy and become perfectly edible again!
Now this is the story told to me by an ancient and wise tour guide known for having a laugh – so treat it all with a pinch of salt.
So Who Makes the Best Bunny Chow
I don’t know to be honest. There are so many places you can buy a bunny chow today, and I’m a creature of habit, once I find something I like I’ll be faithful to the very bitter end.
There is someone who has explored the subject in depth though, Owen Luke. He’s been on a mission to rate and review the best bunny chow joints in Durban and has been posting videos on his YouTube Channel called “Owen Says Go”. His videos are as entertaining as they are informational, you should definitely follow him.
I think that “House of Curries” in Florida Road make one of the best bunny chows out there, offer take-away’s and they are open for sit down meals but it’s best to give them a call before hand to make sure. Not sure if Owen has reviewed them but I’ll definitely be suggesting he does and I’ll rooting for them.
My Favorite Bunny Chow Venues
I’m usually pretty loath to share a secret venue with anyone (in case everyone just starts going, you know what I mean right?) but there is also a case to be made for spreading the love. So here is my top 5 Bunny Chow spots in and around Durb’s in no particular order.
- Gouden’s on the corner of Deodar and Umbilo road. It’s been around longer than I have, I remember chowing down when the technical college was still open opposite them.
- House of Curries in Florida Road is my go to when I have a bunny chow craving.
- Brittania Hotel in Springfield is another old favorite. My Dad actually took me here when I had only just finished schooling, a firm favorite.
- The Curry “O’s” in Pinetown is another spot that I just love. This one I was guided to by my brother who was desperate for a bunny and would accept no other!
- New Little Gujaret Restaurant in Dr Goonam Str, Durban. This one was recommended to me by a fellow guide, and he didn’t steer me wrong.
Am I wrong?
So many bunny chow spots and so little time to find and eat at them all! If you have a secret spot then you must share the love and let me know in the comment section (I’ll keep it to myself wink wink).