Bunny Chow, South Africa’s curry in a bread bowl
Or any kind of Asian cartoon character. Well, not yet anyway. What is it? Well, it’s a stupid thing to call a salad for some people, a movie (sorry, a fil-m) about four characters on a wild road trip over at dogwoofpictures.com or it’s a dish less dish. A what? You heard me. A plate-less, blue-plate. Stew without a pot. A bowless bowl. A cup less cup’soup. You need more of these… or am I getting somewhere?
Do this. Pick up something. Anything. You’re at a computer, lift the mouse or a stapler – now, use two hands and nibble. What do you look like? Other than a weirdo? Right. A bunny. Hence, Bunny Chow. Whew. That was tough, no? There’s another theory, but for now just go with that one. If you don’t link the word “Chow” with food, go read up on WWII. It was a big one. All the major papers talked about how the dogfaces ate it.
But back to the Bunny Chow. This inspired fusion of curry and crusty bread (hallowed bread if I can sneak in a little ex-catholic angst) known as the Bunny Chow comes in quarter loaf, half loaf or for those with large paws a full loaf in varieties innumerable, depending on your chef, your take away joint or yer mamma.
Historically, the genius pairing is thought to have come about in South Africa via Indian sugar field workers. No doubt overpaid and under worked (just a guess, ps that’s sarcasm), they had little time and energy for making traditional Indian breads to sop up their curry. So, with the mother of invention running the kitchen, they worked with western bread to fill the gap. But let’s face it, a lunchbox, multiple containers and utensils aren’t exactly field-worker chic. Or practical. So instead of using sliced bread (Oh we were proud of that one weren’t we) they hallowed out the loaves and filled it. Genius.
Another theory on the name claims that Bunny Chow was first served in restaurants owned by Bunias (Banyas), South African Indians, who made it a tradition in take-out and thus put the “Bunny” in chow. Could be both, no? After all, who really made the first sandwich, that Earl or his chef trying to solve his annoying complaints about gravy on his cards?
Personally, I kinda like the two paw reason. But let’s split the difference shall we? In fact, let’s over complicate it. There is a South African rabbit, the Riverine Rabbit, who is one of the world’s rarest mammals. They have big ears (duh, but no – really) and could use your help when you’re done eating (http://www.riverinerabbit.co.za).
Whatever the point. There is Bunny Chow and the Earl of Sandwich wishes he was so clever. And now surfers and bums alike (no rancor here, I meant “bum” in the good way) have found the value of a carry-ready feast that works utensil free. Apparently, Bunny Chow has become the icon of the sandy and sunset inspired.
Looks like French bread. But smells like god. What’s not to love? If you pass a South African surfer copping a squat with his paws around something that looks loaf-ish, tip him over and try it. Odds are you’ll find a pretty awesome meal, and a reason to take up jogging.
Bunny Chow Curry Recipe
“This recipe was given to me from my friend Kevin Nicolas a surfer from South Africa. He made it for us during a surf camping trip to Sebastian Inlet Florida. It was the hit of the trip and we all had a great time, except for when he set my wife on fire (but that’s another story).
1 tsp ghee .
1/4 tsp paprika .
2 large onions, medium dice .
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper .
4 garlic cloves, minced .
2 cinnamon sticks .
1/4 tsp salt .
1 1/2 tbsp curry powder, homemade or authentic Indian brand .
1/2 tbsp sugar .
1/2 tbsp ghee .
1 c crushed tomatoes .
1 c coconut milk .
3 bay leaves .
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger .
12 boneless skinless chicken thighs .
1/2 tbsp lime juice .
1 tbsp cilantro, sliced
Step #1 Preheat oven to 300F degrees F.
Step #2 Heat 1 tsp ghee in a non stick fry pan.
Step #3 Trim chicken thighs of visible fat & season this with the salt, pepper & paprika.
Step #4 Brown on both sides in the heated ghee & transfer to a casserole dish that has a tight fitting lid.
Step #5 My favorite is a Le Creuset oval casserole.
Step #6 In the same fry pan add the extra 1/2 tbsp ghee & sauté the onions & garlic until soft.
Step #7 Add the curry powder & cook further 2 minutes.
Step #8 Add lime juice, sugar, sliced cilantro, crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks & bay leaves.
Step #9 Pour over chicken - mix so all is coated - cover with lid & bake up to 1 1/2 hrs or until chicken is tender.
Step #10 SAMBALS are condiments that are served in small dishes as compliments to the curry: 1) Mix together sliced tomatoes & finely sliced onion sprinkled with salt, place this in a serving dish & set aside.
Step #11 2) Sliced bananas.
Step #12 3) Peach Chutney 4) Lime Pickle 5) Toasted coconut to sprinkle.
Step #13 6) Papadoms 7) Naan bread.
Serve over rice or hollow out loaf of sour dough French bread and fill.