South African Bunny Chow – my vegetarian version with Chickpeas

by Sala @ Veggie Belly on May 4, 2010

South African cuisine is a titillating mix of Indian, British, Malay, Portuguese and Indonesian food. Every group of settlers has left its own mark on the country’s cuisine. Bunny Chow, also called ‘bunny’ is one of the Indian community’s contributions to South African cuisine. Indian immigrant laborers are credited with inventing this dish nearly 200 years ago. They used hollowed out loaves of bread to put their curries in – an easy way to transport their curries while working in sugar cane plantations. The concept of bunny chow is not unlike India’s own pav bhaji – bread eaten with curried vegetables.

Camps Bay in Cape Town

When I first heard about Bunny Chow from a taxi driver in Cape Town, I was intrigued. But this African street food is usually made with meat, and I couldn’t find a vegetarian version while I was in South Africa (I should have searched harder because the original bunny chow was vegetarian!). I was disappointed to say the least. When Meeta announced South Africa as the theme for her monthly mingle, I jumped at the opportunity to make a vegetarian bunny chow.

I used chickpeas as the filling. I also decided to go with a more elegant presentation and used mini ciabatta rolls, instead of the traditional white bread loaf. The mini rolls worked well, they looked cute, were easy to eat and reminded me of panera style bread bowls! The bread ‘bowls’ soaked up all the curry and got finger licking good!

Intrigued? Want to read more?

Cook Sister’s bunny chow recipe
Afar blog’s bunny chow recipe
Bunny chow etiquette

If you dont want to bother hollowing out bread or dont want use as much bread, you could serve the chickpea filling on top of slices of crusty bread – tapas style! But ofcourse, it wont be bunny chow anymore ;)

South African Bunny Chow with Chickpeas Recipe

makes about 6 mini bunnies

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 carrot, diced (1/2 cups when diced)
1 small green pepper, diced (1/2 cup when diced)
1 large tomato, diced
1 tablespoon curry powder ( may need more or less depending on the brand)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric, optional
1/2 teaspoon paprika, optional
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1-2 cups water
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt
cilantro for garnish

6 mini ciabatta or other bread rolls (or 1-2 regular sized loaves of white or crusty bread)

Heat oil in a pan. Add chopped onions and cook on medium heat till the onions are brown. Then add ginger and garlic paste and saute 30 seconds. Add carrot, green pepper, and tomato and cook till the vegetables are soft. Now add salt, curry powder, turmeric and paprika if using, cook 1 minute on medium-high heat.  Add chickpeas, tomato paste, 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir to make sure tomato paste has dissolved. Boil for about 2 minutes. Add more water if the curry it too thick. Turn off heat. Taste,and add lemon juice according to taste.

Cut the tops off the mini bread rolls and gently scoop out the bread inside. Fill the bread ‘bowls’ with the chickpea filling. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve along with the scooped out bread for dipping.

If using larger sized loaves of bread, halve or quarter (depending on the size) the bread loaf. Scoop out the bread to form a bread bowl. Fill with chickpea filling. Be careful not to scoop out too much bread, your filling might leak out!

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Comments

comments

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sonia May 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Ah! lovely bunny chow. Good idea of chick-pea filing. Thanks for vegetarian version. All pics are just drool-worthy. :)

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Neel | Learn Food Photography Reply:

Agree with you. The photography here is too awesome… wonderful composition here. love the colors and use of dof in various photos…

Totally awesome… thanks for sharing.

Neel

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2 Laavanya May 4, 2010 at 8:19 pm

What a cute name and concept :)

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3 nags May 4, 2010 at 10:22 pm

hahaha that’s such a cute name :)

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4 Cham May 4, 2010 at 10:45 pm

They are cute bread bowl Sala, never tasted the African cuisine, pict of the Cape is extraordinary with water color!

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5 Ellie (Almost Bourdain) May 5, 2010 at 12:09 am

Beautiful pictures! I love this vegetarian take of a classic!

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6 Happy Cook May 5, 2010 at 3:23 am

I wanted to send someting for meeta too, but i have enver had any really typical food from there, my SIL went there for 2 weeks and told she there she had lots of indian food :-)
Love the way they are served in those buns.

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7 Rosa May 5, 2010 at 3:42 am

A wonderful recipe! I am a big fan of chickpeas. South Africa is such a beautifil place.

Cheers,

Rosa

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8 grace May 5, 2010 at 7:02 am

this is the second batch of this that i’ve seen in as many hours, and i love it! bread bowls alone excite me, and the filling just seals the deal. :)

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9 Soma May 5, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I have never thought of a vegetarian version of the bunny chow.
love the cute little bread bowls.

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10 Andrea May 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm

I love the name of the dish! And what a great story, learning of it from a taxi driver. I think I’d prefer the veg version, they should bring it back! Beautiful pictures, as usual.

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11 Dhana May 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Sounds so tasty and easy! Cant wait to try it!

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12 Jeanne @ CookSister! May 5, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I love your vegetarian version – and I love the mini ciabatta idea – too adorable!! The pic of Camps Bay makes me sooooo homesick…

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13 Cassie May 5, 2010 at 7:47 pm

this looks so yummy…. the picture of camps bay is absolutely beautiful.. hope you enjoyed south africa..

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14 SathyaSridhar May 6, 2010 at 4:42 am

Thanks for stopping by n for ur lovely words on my recipe dear…Camps bay is one of my faaav place in Capetown , i like Capetown than Joburg nice weather n got nice places to visit. Buny chow is my faaav SA recipe i usually have sugar beans or chicken bunny chow taste yummy..Your’s soo different n very delicious dear..

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15 Maninas May 6, 2010 at 7:40 am

Your photos are lovely!

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16 Marisa May 6, 2010 at 9:25 am

Great veggie twist on a local classic! I think you’ve captured the spirit of bunny chow beautifully.

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17 Pavithra May 6, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Cute presentation sala.. also I always love the edible bowls for serving…. The cape town picture is awesome.

Pavithra
http://www.dishesfrommykitchen.com

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18 shweta May 6, 2010 at 1:28 pm

i really enjoyed the story behind the bunny chow, makes so much sense. and your take on it is simple creative. it does remind me of pav bhaji if we substitute the chickpea with potato and add a lot more garlic – incidentally i have been CRAVING pav bhaji of late. the presentation in the cute bread bowls tops it! one can now fill it with all sorts of substitutions – yam, sweet potato, potato, cauliflower..
excellent idea!!

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19 lisa May 6, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Bunny chow! How cute! I really love chickpeas and you have so many wonderful flavors and spices going on here. I already know I would love it!

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20 Dhana May 9, 2010 at 12:31 am

Just made these today and it turned out g8! Thanks for the recipe & stories behind Bunny Chow!

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21 Dana May 9, 2010 at 6:09 pm

I don’t know, those chickpeas look so delicious, I would probably just dispense with the bread and eat a double portion. :)

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22 nithya at hungrydesi May 10, 2010 at 9:49 am

I’ve always wanted to try bunny chow! Great recipe and beautiful photographs.

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23 Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets May 11, 2010 at 7:54 am

Both the food and scenery look spectacular. Thanks for making this yummy looking vegetarian version =D.

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24 Michelle May 14, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Love the ciabatta rolls, they’re so cute! I only ever came across bunny chow by reading Jeanne’s (cooksister.com) blog. Even though I use shortage of time as an excuse for my flimsy styling I don’t think I’ll be able to reach your standards if I had all the time in the world!

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25 Juls @ Juls' Kitchen May 19, 2010 at 6:28 am

Beautiful pictures and beautiful recipe! I’m happy to have discovered your blog through Meeta’s monthly mingle!

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26 Casey Angelova May 25, 2010 at 5:23 am

Bunny chow seems like a wonderful meal that would work well on a picnic, since it was created for easy portability. Thank you for sharing!
My blog celebrated Africa Day with a collection of recipes from across the continent. I would love your thoughts. http://www.caseyangelova.com/2010/05/lets-celebrate-africa-day-2010.html

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27 aadila June 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Great post!
Veg bunnies are extremely popular in S.Africa.
They are filled with either, mixed vegtable curry, sugar beans (barlotti) or the most popular one which is a butter bean curry – Yuuuum.

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28 Veena September 8, 2011 at 4:28 am

want to open a bunny stand at the Hout bay beach – would be Mutton – chicken or kebaab any ideas

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29 Ingrid September 17, 2012 at 9:34 am

Wonderful, easy recipe! My husband, who doesn’t like chickpeas OR curry, couldn’t stop saying how great it was. I’ve also made your paella-style tomato rice, and now I have permission to try anything from your blog, anytime!

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30 Kathy September 24, 2012 at 11:11 am

This recipe sounds very good as a side dish also. I’m GF so I have to forego the bread.

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31 Caddie November 2, 2012 at 7:08 am

Being South African, I adore bunny chow – so much fun and super tasty! I’ve never thought of a vegetarian version! i think I’m going to give that a try – good idea! :)

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32 Marisa March 26, 2013 at 5:44 am

I’m surprised that you struggled to find a vegetarian option for bunny chow while in SA. You usually get 3 versions – lamb, chicken and veggie :) And I’ve always found them readily available from the places that have them on the menu ;)

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33 Ritu April 5, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Very creative! How would you suggest heating the buns after adding the chickpea stuffing? I would like the buns to be warm too..

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

You could warm the buns in the oven before filling them.

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