Great African Eats: Bunny Chow, South Africa

bunny chow
Bunny chow, all dressed up. Source: Ideal Magazine.

The story goes, as told by editor Zurie, that during the Great Depression, poor white, Chinese and Indian children in Durban discovered that the cheapest food available was a curry made from sugar beans and sold for under a penny by a vegetarian Indian caste called (in local slang) Bania. Because plates were too expensive, one inventive kid hollowed out a quarter loaf of bread, stuffed it with the bean curry, and then used the dug-out bread as an eating utensil. The ubiquitous South African street food called Bania Chow (chow was the word the Chinese used for food) was born, a name that later morphed into Bunny Chow.

*Via Grey Street in Durban

1 large chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1 lb. round steak or lamb cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves
3.3 oz. sunflower oil
4 peppercorns
1 tsp. chili powder
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. Garam masala
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 stick cinnamon
14.5 oz. can chopped tomatoes
2 whole cardamoms
1 ¾ oz. tomato puree
1 star anise
6 ¾ oz. hot beef stock
½ tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. whole coriander seeds
2 potatoes, cut into quarters

1 red chili, chopped finely
Handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Braise the chopped onion, minced garlic, ginger and salt gently in the oil until translucent. Add the spices and braise gently to release all the wonderful flavors. Add the meat and braise a little more, then add the balance of the ingredients except for the potatoes and garnish. Simmer gently for one hour, stir well and add potatoes. Continue simmering until meat is tender to the fork and potatoes are cooked. Serve in scooped out quarter loaves, garnishing with chopped chili and coriander leaves.

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