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This Easter, not all the bunnies that you’ll find in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) will be made of chocolate!

When you’re visiting the province try its much-loved fast food, known as the Bunny Chow. For the uninitiated, it is a hollowed-out loaf of fluffy white bread filled with a deliciously hot (and equally infamous) Durban curry and then topped with the original inner which serves as the perfect way to mop up the aromatic gravy.

Best eaten with one’s hands, this is street food at its most flavourful. It is a culinary tradition that has come to define the province and the port city of Durban with many visitors actually planning bunny pilgrimages for their vacations.

Some of KZN’s top chefs – or self-declared “culinary artistes” – have tried to serve up haute cuisine versions only to find that some things can’t be re-invented. So, although the Bunny Chow has, inevitably, spread as far and wide as Johannesburg and even New York, it somehow doesn’t taste the same far away from home.

As many a bunny convert will tell you, until you’ve enjoyed one, you can’t quite understand what all the fuss is about. After you’ve sampled a genuine Durban curry (whether mutton, chicken, beef or anything more creative) at the heart of a bunny, you will probably never look at curry in quite the same way again!

The art of chowing a Bunny

Carefully and with plenty of serviettes! The trick is to start with the lump of bread at the top which you can dip into the gravy and then move downwards. Tear pieces off the side and then dip them in the gravy and add meat, taking care not to venture below the filling or you will have a hot runny mess on your hands.

A good bunny comes with tender meat (you can order off the bone at some restaurants), small soft pieces of potato and plenty of gravy. The rule is that a dry bunny is a bad bunny.

A quarter bunny is usually perfect for a single meal, although some establishments sell half bunnies which are great to share. The very first bunnies were usually made with beans, but the city’s curry kings soon hopped on the Bunny bandwagon and added mutton, chicken and even a selection of seafoods that fit with the East Coast vibe.

The gravy is usually the hottest part of the Bunny. If you find that you can’t take the heat, it is always good to have a soft drink or, better still, a beer handy to tame the ire of the spices and keep your nose from twitching.

Making Bunny history

The Bunny Chow is closely linked to Durban’s heritage and is believed to have originated from the Indian immigrants who arrived in Durban as indentured labourers to work on the province’s sugar plantations. It was probably perfected and sold by those that followed to make a new life for themselves as merchants. Over the years the food (or chow) sold by the merchants (banias) morphed into the bunny chow. There are other versions. Some say that beggars would approach the merchants for leftover food at the end of the day. Because they didn’t have enough time to make sandwiches, they quickly dug out the centre of a loaf and filled it with meat and gravy.

Alternatively, there’s the story of the Indian caddies at the Royal Durban Golf Course who didn’t have enough time to slip away to the then bunny hub in Grey Street for a curry at lunchtime. So, they got their friends to buy their curry and bring it to them at the golf course in an easy to carry format using substitute lunchboxes made out of bread.

The moral of the story is that opportunity was the mother of the bunny invention. Whatever the truth, the most important thing is that you make this a fun part of your Easter holiday in KZN.

Catching a bunny

Tourism KwaZulu-Natal consulted its Bunny Boffins for suggestions on where to catch the very best Bunny. This, too, came with a warning. In true street food style, the most flavourful fare doesn’t always come from the poshest spots with perfect sit-down areas. Often, the very best way to complete your quest is by ordering a takeaway.

The top ten bunny spots (unaudited and therefore open to additions) include:

  • Cane Cutters in Glenwood and Umhlanga
  • Gounden’s in Umbilo, Durban
  • The Hollywoodbets Bunny Bar, Springfield Park
  • Capsicum Restaurant at the Britannia Hotel, Umgeni Road
  • House of Curries, Florida Road
  • Impulse by the Sea, Tinley Manor
  • The Curry Okies in Oxford Centre, Hillcrest
  • Gate of India, Gillitts
  • Ballito Famous Bunnies
  • Green Chilli Restaurant, Margate
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