I was reminded of this the other day.
Back in Sith Efrika, city streets are full of little snack bars, fish ‘n chip shops and cafés (called “caffies” by the locals, and these places bear absolutely no relation to the French establishment). All serve the usual stuff: hot dogs (“horrogs”), burgers, and of course fish ‘n chips.
Most of them, especially in working-class areas, serve something else. It’s called (inexplicably) “bunny chow”, and it’s the simplest of all dishes: a half-loaf of regular white- or brown bread, hollowed out and filled with either chicken/beef/lamb curry, or else beef/mutton stew. It’s a budget-prized take on the “soup-in-a-French-boule” thing beloved of snooty Californian and Midwestern restaurants.
Here are a couple pics of bunny chow, to give you an idea:
You can eat it with your bare hands: scoop the top part out with your fingers until there’s enough crust to break off and use as a scoop; or if you’re feeling flush, order a side of fries and use those in twos as your delivery device. (I said it was a working-class food.) Or, if you’re squeamish, use a fork for the stew, and when it’s all gone, eat the saturated bread up afterwards. Either way, you have to eat it quickly or else the loaf will collapse — literally, it’s a portable meal to be eaten on the run.
You can go upscale with it:
…but that’s like putting caviar on a hot dog. “Bunny chow” means cheap bread, cheap meat, a cheap meal.
Served properly, it’s delicious. Sadly, bunny chow is often used for yesterday’s leftover stew (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or else last week’s leftover stew (not so good). Rule of thumb: never order bunny chow early on a Monday morning.
When I was a starving student back in the early 1970s, I lived on bunny chow. There was a greasy snack bar just around the corner from campus which served both curried chicken or -lamb chow, but you had to be careful eating either because there were often pieces of bone left in the stew — let’s just say that the food prep tended towards the hasty side in these establishments.
Later, as a starving musician, my tastes had become more sophisticated, and I’d moved on to shawarmas, that spicy and tasty Mediterranean dish of lamb, chicken or beef carved off a rotating vertical skewer:and served inside a soft, thin pita-bread pocket.
After almost every gig, I’d head off to Paradise Foods in Hillbrow (greasy spoons, greasy floor, greasy walls FFS), get two shawarmas (meat and sauce only, none of that veg crap), and somehow I’d manage to eat both of them on the run before I got back to my car. Man, it was a highlight of the week.
But if I was on the road to or from a gig and feeling hungry, there was always a roadside “caffie” somewhere to sell me bunny chow.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the kitchen.