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from: Southern Africa

Bunny Chow

It's not food for rabbits. It's not made from rabbits. Bunny Chow is the result of an only-in-South-Africa combination of Asian curry, European bread, and South African apartheid.

durban, south africa

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Enslaved Asians from Indonesia and Malaysia were brought to South Africa soon after the first Europeans arrived. Later, servants and workers from India arrived. And more than any other African country, South Africa was the destination of European migrants, who grew European grain and made European bread. Malay and Indian influences became a fixture of South African cuisine, and by the early 1900's curry restaurants were found in every South African city. An inexpensive meal was a bowl of curry served with a few slices of bread. Over time, apartheid laws were tightened to enforce strict segregation of black, colored (Malay, Indian), and white people, and many restaurants were not allowed to seat black patrons. They could sell take-away (carry-out) food to anyone, but this was before disposable plates and bowls. An enterprising restaurateur in Durban hit upon the solution: put the curry inside the bread -- the bread doing for the curry what the cone does for the ice cream. Somehow this "bread bowl" of curry came to be called bunny chow. Why? Putting curry into half a loaf of bread hardly makes it look any more like a rabbit than it did before it contained the curry. Or is it that half a loaf of bread looks like a bun? The best theory seems to be that bunny chow were first served in Durban restaurants owned by South African Indians known as Bunias or Banias (also spelled Banyas). Bunny chow became a tradition in South African take-away food. And though the apartheid era is over it is still a popular item, especially in Durban.

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