By Marcus Samuelsson | October 24, 2013

Bunny Chow

This meal comes from Durban, South Africa, where Indian indentured servants created it. The South African Indian community began in 1860, when Indians were imported as laborers for the sugar cane fields in Port Natal. These days, South Africa is home to the largest population of Indians outside of India and their influence on South Africa’s cuisine is ever present. Some stories about the origin of this dish say that the workers needed a lunch that they could carry to the fields so they created a meal by using a big piece of bread, hollowing it out and filling it with a curry and meat. It’s quite a dry curry, so if you use a crusty loaf of bread, it won’t soak through the crust as you bring it to the table. (I suggest that you use the inside of the loaf to make bread pudding.)

  • 2 pounds boneless lean lamb (preferably from the leg)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil 
  • 2-3 curry leaves 
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed 
  • 1½ tsp. crushed ginger 
  • 1½ tsp. crushed garlic 
  • 4 tsp. Durban masala (or mild curry powder)
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric 
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 tsp. garam masala 
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 crusty loaf of rustic bread
  • Fresh cilantro , for garnish


1. Cut the lamb into cubes and set aside. Then, slice the onion thinly into rings, set aside. Chop the tomatoes. Reserve.

2. Heat the oil and add the cinnamon stick, crushed cardamom pods, onion and curry leaves. Fry until the onion is light golden brown in color, 6 to 7 minutes.

3. Add the tomato, ginger, garlic, masala mix, or curry powder and the turmeric.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes cook down, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the lamb cubes and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes to the meat along with ¼ cup water and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover loosely, and simmer over low heat until the meat is tender and the potatoes are cooked, about 30 minutes. Add the garam masala. Season to taste with salt. Simmer for another 10 minutes on low heat.

5. While the pot simmers, cut off the top of the loaf and scoop out the insides, leaving a shell at least 1-inch thick.

6. Spoon the curry into the emptied out loaf of bread and serve, garnished with cilantro. 

NOTE: Curry leaves can be found fresh, frozen or dried at many gourmet and specialty stores.

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