New-style bunny chow

New-style bunny chow

Reza’s Indian Spice

‘Bunny chow’ is a traditional dish in South Africa; it was created by Indian immigrants. Under the apartheid regime, excluded people were not allowed to be served food. To get around this, enterprising restaurant owners used to hollow out a loaf of bread, fill it with bunny chow, and pass it through a hatch. When I was in Durban, I was asked to make my version of bunny chow, and this is it. I thought this recipe for lamb in pickling spices combined with brioche would be ideal, as the slight bitterness of the spices lends itself rather marvellously to the sweet bread. This curry is a very good-tempered dish, it can be made in advance and also freezes well; the flavours will deepen.


Quantity Ingredient
500g lean lamb, cut into 5cm cubes
1 teaspoon turmeric
25ml mustard oil, (optional)
100g ghee or vegetable oil
4 onions, thinly sliced
4-6 dried red chillies
6 cloves
3 black cardamom pods
4 green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
pinch asafoetida
4-6 garlic cloves, crushed
5cm piece of root ginger, grated
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1-2 tablespoons gur
1 lime, juiced
4 brioche buns, to serve


  1. Put the meat into a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Pour in just enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, skim any scum from the surface, then add salt to taste and the turmeric. Cover, reduce the heat, then simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the meat is tender; this will take 45 minutes to one hour. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon, reserving any remaining liquid.
  2. In a separate pan, heat the mustard oil, if using, with the ghee or oil. Once the oil begins to smoke, add the onions and fry until golden brown, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Add the whole dried chillies to the remaining oil in the pan and fry until they blacken, then remove the pan from the heat and discard the chillies. Return the oil to the heat once again, then add the cloves and both types of cardamom pods, allowing them to sizzle for a few seconds. Now add the mustard, cumin, fennel, nigella and fenugreek seeds and the asafoetida. Once the seeds begin to crackle and pop, add the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for a minute, then add the cooked meat with the chilli powder and sugar molasses, if using. Stir-fry for a further few minutes, adding the leftover meat stock, if there is any.
  3. Add the lime juice with 2 tbsp water and simmer over a low heat until all the moisture has evaporated and only the ghee remains on top.
  4. Serve in a hollowed out brioche bun, sprinkled with the fried onions. Or, if you prefer, leave out the brioche buns and serve with chapatis.
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