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IIndian diaspora cuisine reflects the climate, land, culture and history in which it finds itself. South Africans of Indian origin have retained the core culinary traits of their Asian motherland but they have also incorporated African ingredients and hospitality traditions from their nearest neighbours.
South African Indian diaspora cuisine is deliciously distinct from that found in India itself. South Africans of Indian origin are generally descended either from South Indian people who arrived in the 1860s to work on the KwaZulu-Natal sugar plantations or from subsequent businessmen who came to service the retail needs of the farm workers.
In India, foods are very regionally specific but because the South African Indian people come from a diverse range of communities a collective fusion genre of Indian cooking has developed. There are also Zulu influences on the Indian food in South Africa because Indian people and Zulu people lived and worked in close proximity in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
South African people of Indian descent have taken to cooking with traditional Zulu ingredients such as the fermented milk drink amasi, while relishes such as the township classic chakalaka show evidence of the incorporation of Indian spices.
Classic South African Indian food has been shaped by our history. According to legend, the curry filled bread mélange known to all South Africans as a ‘bunny chow' was created in Durban during the apartheid era when Indian Bannia class traders were prohibited from serving Zulu customers inside their eateries. The Bannias developed an edible take away container made of bread and filled with curry. And so the quintessential taste of Durban was born.
It goes without saying that the best bunnies hop in KwaZulu-Natal province. Try the mutton curry at Durban's shabby chic Britannia Hotel or head up the coast to Impulse by the sea at Manor Beach for superb Indian cooking and a bean bunny deluxe. Find all the ingredients you need to make your own Indian diaspora cuisine by visiting the Victoria Street Market in Durban.
In Pretoria, Little Durban offers a surprisingly authentic bunny chow as does Cape Town's Mariam's Kitchen in the St George's Mall.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
1229 Umgeni Road, Lower Morningside, Durban
Tel: +27 (0)31 303 2266
House of Curries on Florida
275 Florida Road, Morningside, Durban
Tel: +27 (0)31 303 6076
Victoria Street Market
151 Victoria Street, Durban
Tel: +27 (0)31 306 4021
Little Durban Shop
1 Dey Street
Tel: +27 (0)12 460 8838
101 St George’s Mall, Cape Town
Tel: +27 (0)21 423 0772/02
23 Church Street, Cape Town
Tel: +27 (0)21 424 0000
How to get there
Durban style Indian food is available in a range of outlets from super smart to cheap take-away spots. Expect to pay about R50 for a mutton bunny chow at a take-away.
Best time to visit
Durban's various indian communities celebrate holy days and festivals like Diwali. Food is an integral part of this experience so try and be there at festival time in November.
Things to do
What to pack
Pack a large appetite and enough money for seconds.