South Africa: Bunny Chow

Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Recipes | 2 comments

It’s the second week of VeganMoFo! This week on our culinary world tour we travel to Africa and we’ll work our way from the southernmost tip of the continent to the North. I hope you are as excited as I am!

I love South Africa. I’ve probably spent more time in South Africa than any other country and have traveled there more times than I can count. It’s a country that is incredibly rich, vibrant, creative and complicated. And every time I go I feel like in some ways I’m going home, mostly because the trees, the colors, and the feel is often very much like Australia.

The art, music, food, design all feel very now and Johannesburg and Cape Town are the places to take it all in. But that is juxtaposed against customs and traditions that are age-old (some good, some not so good), which manifest in so many ways, including in people’s lived reality, the politics, as well as the culture.

The food in South Africa is amazing. The vegetables are almost always served in season and are incredibly fresh and tasty. And even though the cuisine is very meat-heavy, I have never struggled to find good, vegan food. If nothing else, there is always pap and tomato gravy! South-east Asian cuisine has had a big influence on the country’s food and Cape Malay cuisine is delicious and very vegan friendly.  Of course, there are also plenty of Italian, Ethiopian, Indian, Thai and other restaurants throughout the country as well. 

The politics are frustrating and complicated.  The post-apartheid era started with an incredible sense of hope, as well as an abiding desire for human rights, freedom and justice. As a result, it delivered one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. For example, it guarantees non-discrimination on any grounds, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But in some respects, the constitution got ahead of public sentiment. For example, the violence experienced by LGBT communities is relentless and brutal. 

The entrance to South Africa's Constitutional Court in Johannesburg

The entrance to South Africa’s Constitutional Court in Johannesburg

There have been recent attacks on the constitution and the strong Constitutional Court, by some. And there have been other efforts, so far unsuccessful, to claw back rights. For example, the Protection of State Information Bill could impinge the right to the freedom of information by imposing harsh penalties on whistleblowers and the media for disclosing information that is deemed of national interest.

Birds on barbed wire

Birds on barbed wire at the men’s prison at the Fort, now Constitution Hill, in Johannesburg 

Some would say the African National Congress currently bears little resemblance to what it was under Mandela, but the reality is that its unlikely to be unseated by political opposition any time soon, because it is such a symbol of the struggle for freedom. 

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A view from the men’s prison, which housed many political prisoners, including Mahatma Gandhi and for a time, Nelson Mandela

Despite the fact that there has been huge progress in addressing poverty, there is still far to go. The ANC has not been able to reduce some of the most glaring inequalities. Townships, or informal settlements, populated largely by black communities continue to grow, with little access to basics such as water, electricity and sanitation.  There is a great organization based in Cape Town called the Social Justice Campaign and it’s primary focus  is ensuring access to safe and sanitary toilets in the townships that surround the city. They have organized toilet queue protests in Cape Town’s city center to bring into stark relief the daily realities of many who have to queue to use the bathroom. It’s perhaps the most striking symbol of the difference between the affluent and those who have very little. 

Inequality is just one factor that drives violence in the country, which is extreme, especially against women.  It has one of the highest rates of rape in the world and I have few friends who have managed to escape senseless and seemingly random violence against them… 

But, back to some of the more exciting things about the country.  First, the environment.

The protea: South Africa's national flower

The protea: South Africa’s national flower

There are few countries on earth that are as stunningly beautiful.

Sunset in Cape Town

Sunset in Cape Town

Cape Town just may be one of the most gorgeous cities on the face of the earth.

A view of Table Mountain from Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

A view of Table Mountain from Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Table Mountain dominates the skyline and its unspoiled coastline embraces it.

On the hike up Table Mountain

On the hike up Table Mountain

One of my favorite memories is hiking up Table Mountain with a dear friend and colleague.  We weren’t really planning to hike table mountain, we were planning on spending the morning in the serene Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.  When we got there, there were guides on hand working at the park who were willing to take us up the mountain partway and so we decided to go as far as we could. About a third of the way up, our guide told us he was planning to turn back soon. Just as he did, we encountered a group that was heading up to the top and we decided to continue on with them.  

A python on Table Mountain

A python on Table Mountain

Our plan was to hike up and then take the cable car down. It took us a few hours of tough hiking through gorgeous scenery to get to the top and when we got to there a storm started rolling in.  The cable car was shut down and we had to quickly hike down, managing to just beat the storm.  I spent the next few days in agony: my legs had gotten the workout of their lives, but it was worth every second.  

A view of Simon's Town, South Africa

A view of Simon’s Town, South Africa

If you are ever in Cape Town, you must venture further south to visit South Africa’s endangered African Penguin colony on Boulder’s Beach.

Penguins on Boulder's Beach

Penguins on Boulder’s Beach

The area is part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area and access to the beach and its birds is controlled.

Penguins hanging out on the beach

Penguins hanging out on the beach

The best place to see the penguins is on Foxy Beach, where there is a walkway that allows visitors to get amazing views of the penguins, as well as their nesting and breeding sites, while ensuring that the birds are minimally disturbed. 

Cute!

Cute!

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Let’s just take a moment to admire his majesty.

The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, some of Africa’s most southern tips, are also must sees.

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

Cape Point marks the place where the Pacific and Indian oceans meet, but never mix. 

Cape Point

Cape Point

Cape Point Light House

Cape Point Light House

Lizard!

Lizard!

I’m not a soccer fan, or any sports fan for that matter, but the energy and excitement engulfing the country when it hosted the World Cup was infectious. The opportunity to attend the Ghana v. Uruguay semi-final of the World Cup game was something that I couldn’t pass up. 

The World Cup Semi-Final between Ghana and Uruguay

The World Cup Semi-Final between Ghana and Uruguay

Ghana was the last of the African teams left and so the packed stadium was rooting for them.  When they lost during penalty shootouts, it was heartbreaking. 

Durban, in the country’s north west, was the first place I visited and the place that inspires the recipe I’m sharing with you today. 

Sand sculpture on the beach in Durban

Sand sculpture on the beach in Durban

Bunny Chow

Bunny Chow

Bunny chow is the ultimate South African street food: curry served in a half or quarter-loaf of hollowed out white bread.  Some date its origin to a restaurant run by an Indian caste known as the Banias, which served takeaway to excluded people during apartheid.  It is usually made with mutton, potatoes and other vegetables and an array of spices and served in a crusty white bread. 

My bunny chow spices

My bunny chow spices

For the bread, I used a gluten-free hearty whole grain bread mix from Bob’s Red Mill and baked it in three 4-inch spring-form cake pans, which resulted in perfectly sized single-serving loaves. 

Delicious gluten-free bread

Delicious gluten-free bread

I sliced the top off, then hollowed it out to hold the curry. 

Hollowed out loaf

Hollowed out loaf

The recipe for the curry I’m sharing today is a little non-traditional.  I use all of the herbs and spices of the original, but instead of mutton and potatoes, I use red kidney beans and sweet potatoes, along with orach greens. 

Bunny Chow Ingredients

Bunny Chow Ingredients

And it is absolutely delicious!

Bunny Chow
Serves 3
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Total Time
45 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  2. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  3. 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  4. 2 cardamom pods, crushed
  5. 1 star anise pod
  6. 1-inch piece of cinnamon
  7. 1 bay leaf
  8. 1 tbsp garam masala
  9. 1 tbsp curry powder
  10. 1 onion, diced
  11. 1 can red kidney beans
  12. 2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes
  13. 3 tomatoes, chopped
  14. 1/2 tbsp ginger
  15. 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  16. 6 kaffir lime leaves or curry leaves
  17. 2-3 cups water, as needed
  18. 1 cup baby orach leaves (or spinach, kale or other hearty greens)
  19. 1 tbsp lime juice
  20. Salt and pepper to taste
  21. 3 bread hollows to hold the curry
  22. 1 tbsp grapeseed oil or refined coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Add a little oil to a large pan and heat on medium-high.
  2. Toast mustard, cumin and coriander seeds along with cardamom, star anise pod, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf until the seeds begin to brown and pop.
  3. Add onion and saute until soft.
  4. Add ginger, garlic and tomato and continue to saute until the tomato begins to break down.
  5. Add the garam masala and curry powder, along with with the sweet potatoes, kidney beans and two cups of water and bring to a boil.
  6. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer until the sweet potatoes are fully cooked.
  7. Add more water as necessary.
  8. Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, turn off the heat.
  9. Fold in the greens and add the lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Dish the curry into the bread bowls and garnish with some cilantro.
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
Bunny chow is meant to be eaten with your hands.  Use the top of the loaf to scoop out some curry, and then break the sides of the bread off and use them to scoop up the curry as you go! 

An incredibly filling and tasty meal

An incredibly filling and tasty meal

Enjoy! 

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2 Comments

  1. gorgeous photos! bunny chow sounds really comforting curry and bready-carbs always make one felt at peace even when they are not surrounded by nature.

    • Thanks so much Kendy! Bunny chow is a real comfort food. And as the weather gets cooler, it’s something I will be making again and again.

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