It’s early Saturday morning, winter is upon us and even though Durban isn’t exactly a cold place, there is a reasonable chill in the air. This isn’t the time I’d usually be at Durban Curry House on Stamfordhill Road, but on this occasion I’m not just frequenting this iconic Durban location for mouthwatering Indian food, but also for an interview about one of Durban’s most famous exports – the Bunny Chow.
On any given day, you will find a horde of hungry fans of the good old Durban Curry House queuing up for a reasonable priced bunny which is heaped so generously with gravy that it almost overflows off the plate.
The bunny chow is typical Durban working class cuisine which has spread so far and wide that there is now even a bunny chow shop in London.
Some would argue that its modest roots have become appropriated by the invention of the gourmet bunny chow, but no one can deny it origins which are firmly cemented in the Indian community of Durban.
There are many similar yet varying stories on how this food actually came to Durban. One is that a restaurant by the name of Kapitan’s which was situated on the corner of the then Albert and Victoria Street was the original site. It was largely regarded that bunny chows were served through the window at this restaurant because many Indians at the time were not allowed into certain white owned establishments!
But if you walk around the centre of town and visit some of the first curry shops in the city, most of them will proclaim to have invented the Bunny Chow and every self-respecting owner will also unashamedly admit that their curry is, in fact, the best in Durban.
Everyone seems to have their favourite haunt and one of mine is Durban Curry House on Stamford Hill Road. For roughly six years, they have been serving a little corner of this town some spicy fresh and deliciously gastronomical fare.
46 year old Desmond Naidoo took over the business four years ago and says that he has thoroughly enjoyed the experience of running his own curry shop. His brother helped him finance the store and his sister Pearl Anthony is the cook. “My sister has always been an amazing cook and she is the real star of the show,” chuckles Naidoo.
Roughly four years ago, Naidoo was retrenched from the Warrick Triangle bus depot where he worked as an operations assistant for Shell SA. After this, food seemed like the best possible option as cooking was a family passion.
Naidoo says that the business is growing every year for him and his small team. Although he’s lost count of how many bunnies he serves a day, he believes this could be anything from 60 to 100 bunnies daily.
Although there are many other curry shops on the street and area, Naidoo still states that Hollywood situated less than a km from Durban Curry House is their biggest rival especially during the annual Bunny Chow Barometer.
Desmond sites the annual Durban Bunny Chow Barometer as an event which is highly beneficial to the success of his business.
The Durban Bunny Chow Barometer is an annual event that has almost gotten” American pie eating competition like status” over the years and sees 1000’s of people descend to Durban’s Blue Lagoon or now known as the green hub by the edge of the Umgeni river, to find out what is arguably Durban’s best bunny.
“Hollywood are the people to beat. They won last year but we have been in the top ten four years in a row and we are hoping we can take them,” remarks Naidoo proudly.
This comes in the midst of expansion. Naidoo says that he and his brother are planning on extending and making an outside area at their current location. They also want to open up four other stores around the city.
Naidoo also believes that Stamford hill is on the rise as a business hub and many prominent business’s such as Kingsgate clothing are moving into the area and creating ‘a buzz’. He’s very excited about new developments in the area and feels it can only be good for his business.
“I really enjoy it here. I have a lovely bunch of people who come here and I really like my clientele,” Naidoo adds.