I’m trying to think of a more appropriate time than mid-day in winter to be tucking into Durban’s culinary gift to the world, but I can’t. Well actually that’s not quite true, anytime is the right time for a bunny chow, but since we’re mid-winter, the opening sentence still works.
Bunny chow’s; delicious half or quarter loaves of fluffy soft white bread filled oozing with the heady aromatics and punch-in-the-mouth taste of a unique Durban curry. It’s doesn’t matter if your tribe is a beef, chicken or bean curry, the humble “bunny chow” is a people pleaser like none other.
These days, the good ol’ bunny chow can be found throughout South Africa. I’ve enjoyed them while in Kruger National Park or partying in Cape Town (and everywhere in between). But no bunny chow comes close to those made in and around Durban.
Here in the Valley of a 1000 Hills we have a number of take-away’s where you come succumb to the fiery deliciousness of a bunny chow, but before we get there here’s a quick history lesson.
The Origins of the Bunny Chow
It’s question that many ask; why call it the “bunny chow” if it involves no cute and cuddly bunnies in the production of said chow? Well it turns out the “bunny” part is actually a corruption of the original word. Let me explain.
Back in the early days of Durban’s history, when dreaded plastics had yet to make an appearance and ruin the landscape with 2l bottles and other sundry plastic items, people lacked a convenient and easy to way to transport food. Indian laborers around the city as well as cane cutters and golf course caddies would often have their food delivered to them by the household children in metal containers, which are just not that convenient.
So the story goes that one day a “bania” (a nickname for an Indian store keeper) was contemplating what to do with yesterday’s stale bread when he had a moment of divine inspiration and scooped out the inside of the bread loaf and spooned in the offering of the day. Not quite content with his creation, he then secured his creation’s place in history by carefully balancing the scooped out portion of bread on top of the meal.
“Two birds with one stone” he thought to himself (well, we don’t really know what he thought to himself, or even who he was), “I created a way to carry fast food and use up day-old bread, huzzah!”
It wasn’t long before other bania’s and housewives (and some house-husbands, we’re all about equal opportunity here) followed suit and hollowed out loaves of bread filled with last nights leftovers were making their way out all around the city.
For the hard working laborer out in the fields there was the added bonus of now being able to mop up gravy using the now softened bread – more bang for your buck as advertisers are constantly trying to tell us.
But where does the “bunny” part come into it all?
Well, there was a large population of Brits about who lived for curries and found the new way of transporting their lunch time curries simply marvelous. But, being Brits, they were naturally unable to pronounce anything outside of the Queens English with any success. So, “bania” became corrupted to… (drum roll)… “bunny”.
And there you have it, the not-so-accurate history of the humble yet world renown Bunny Chow.
I should point out that no one really knows where the term comes from, but it’s mostly accepted that what I’ve described happened.
Now back to the blog post!
Bunny Chows in the Valley of a 10000 Hills
It’s said that too much of a good thing is bad for you. This thought came to me as I sat outside my favorite curry takeaway enjoying what might be my favorite lunchtime meal of all time, a mixed-beans bunny. What if, I considered, I were paid to drive about the countryside testing bunny chows? As a shiver made its way down my spine, I considered the logistics and my ridiculously low salary and my dream was instantly crushed.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate some local joints. So here are my 4 usual go-to’s for a bunny chow when my schedule and boss (and finances) allow.
The quick list;
- Some Like It Hot (Charous) in Kloof
- The Chillpot in Linkhills Center, Waterfall
- Curry Okies in Oxford Village
- Some Like It Hot in Hillcrest
Now before I go on, there are other spots to get a great curry, but I don;t know them all since a 1000 Hills is a big area and I reside in one tiny spot of it. So if I missed someplace fantastic that the world needs to know about, them drop the details int he comments below.
The Detailed List
Some Like It Hot (Charous) in Kloof
It’s on my way home. I don’t what else to say. They have a great menu with all you could think of and the ladies behind the counter are as friendly as heck. Walking in you can just smell that good old curry being prepared, and you know it’s healthy stuff. I have to admit I eat here at least once a week.
The shop resembles every what every curry den should look like. It’s small, smells good and has 3 tiny tables and some chairs. Of course these days the tables aren’t going to be used much, but I kinda like them. There is the obligatory hand sanitizer at the door and of course everyone is masked. The food is also served really quick and piping hot.
But the food! Deliciousness in a carb-laden white bread loaf. I usually have the mixed-bean bunny, it’s my personal favorite but I do enjoy the chicken bunny as well. Prices are fair, the portions oozing. I don’t know what else there is to want.
Oh, and I have to make special mention of their “paneer chutney” roti roll. This is not something I would have chosen myself but my partner did and then forced me to try it against my will and now I have to publicly admit that she was right – so, so good.
Good to know
- Situated in Kloof Village Mall.
- Call them on +27 (0) 79 242 7687
- “Mr D” do collect and deliver from here.
- Open to 8pm.
- The website link is www.somelikeithot.co.za
- They also have a Facebook page.
The Chillipot in Waterfall
The newest Indian take-away to the list opened not too long ago in the Linkhills shopping center in Waterfall. I for one can only say “thank the Gods” for this one since it’s within walking distance of home for me! For some reason Waterfall just doesn’t have that many restaurants or even a varied selection of takeaways past the usual 3.
The Chillipot has a wide menu to choose from, and to make things really interesting, the have specials running every day. In order to keep things fair I ordered a beans bunny from them as well to compare, and damn they hit the nail flush on the head. I will mention that unlike the others, they didn’t offer a “mixed bean” bunny, some days they have butter bean, some days sugar bean, but never both.
There is a single counter running against one wall that you can site at, one internal table and one external table. Mostly these tables are taken up by waiting customers. Naturally hand-sanitizer can be hand at the entrance and everyone is masked up.
Their bean bunny is so tasty, not quite as spicy as the others listed, but just really tasty and flavorful. Smaller portions of potato as well which I kinda like – I find a big chunk of potato takes up valuable bean curry space. And if you are eating in, you’ll get offered extra gravy which is awesome (who says no to extra gravy?).
Special mention must be made of their butter chicken bunny, OMG! I have no words as to how delicious this is, none at all. I also need to make special mention of their “chip, cheeses and fried onion peri-naise with chips on the side with curry gravy” – it has ruined other sandwiches for me.
One thing I do have to advise is “be patient”. The place is crazy busy and the shop is tiny, so food takes a little time to prepare.
Good to know
- Can be found in Linkhills Shoping center, Waterfall.
- Their number is +27 (0) 79 437 4445
- They have a Facebook page which can be found here.
- They offer a vegan “whatsapp” meal service which is a game changer.
- Open to 8pm.
The Curry Okies
I only recently found this place, I can’t believe there was this whole piece of me missing! Well, now that I have discovered it, I am whole again.
A tiny takeaway with three tables crowded inside and two tables outside, the ambience is exactly what I’d expect from such an establishment. And don’t let the pictures I took of an empty store fool you, they are popular! While I was there people were popping in almost constantly to pick up their phoned through orders.
Right, to business then, the mixed beans bunny. In a word, hot, really hot, I loved it. There is that fine line that many curry dens dance about, where the curry is either so damn hot there is just no taste and it burns right through you (literally) and then there’s the kinda hotness that makes a man (or woman) of you, the kind of hotness that leaves you drenched in a sweaty haze of contentment on having enjoyed a great meal.
Here, at the Curry Okies, it was the later. A delicious bunny chow that left a sweat of greatness upon my brow. A rich gravy, no huge potato chunks, a sharp “bite” tempered by the side of grated carrot. And a crispy loaf of bread – how did they do that!? Was it old bread in an oven? Home made bread? What ever is was, damn it was good.
Good to know
- Find them at Oxford Center in Hillcrest.
- Call them on +27 (0) 31 765 2256.
- They close at 6pm.
Some Like it Hot (Hillcrest)
You would think that two branches of the some brand would serve the same food flavored similarly. Turns out not to be the case. There is a definite difference between their Kloof and the Hillcrest branches. But not in a negative way, just different.
Again to make things fair I went with a beans bunny and once again I was not disappointed (can one even be disappointed with a bunny chow?). The shop is mall, room for only one table and of course all the usual covid precautions were in place. And the shop seems pretty busy with quite a few people waiting about for their orders (I image weekends must be really busy)
The bunny chow was great. If I were forced to rank them, I’d definitely rank them forth but, still perfectly enjoyable, perfectly acceptable and great value for money. If I were to have one criticism, I would say add a little more gravy and cut down on the potato chunks; it’s a beans bunny not a potato bunny after all.
But still, a great bunny and I’ll definitely be going back; though at this stage I risk turning into a bunny chow!
Good to know
- Find them at Hillcrest Center.
- Call them on +27 (0) 31 765 8372.
- Their website can be found here.
- Ubereats does offer meals from here.
That’s All Folks
That’s it, 4 of my favorite fast food curry spots in the Valley of a 1000 Hills. If I were to offer some suggestions to the above restaurants, it this; please add a “chicken and bean” option to the line ups!
Again, if you know of other options in the Valley of a 1000 Hills area, leave a comment below and I’ll make sure to visit and try them out.