Curry was introduced to the colony of Natal over 150 years ago by indentured sugarcane labourers, who brought with them the aromatic foods of India. In fact, the word curry stems from the Tamil word ‘kari’ which means ‘sauce’. The unique flavours of Indian cooking, which were embraced by British settlers and the Zulus, have been developed to make the curry particular to Durban, famous around the world.
The flavours of this spicy red dish – derived from hot curries of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu – are enhanced by fiery chillies, which are the main ingredient in the curry powder, giving a rich colour and hearty flavour. The array of tasty Durban curries encompass many glorious dishes made from chicken, prawns, fish, beef and vegetables, but the most popular choice is lamb or mutton. So what’s the difference between an Indian curry and a Durban curry? Indian curries are usually coloured yellow with turmeric, while Durban curries, which are hotter, are coloured red with tomatoes, chillies and cayenne pepper.
Expert curry makers from Durban boast that a typical Durban Masala curry powder has about 12 different ingredients in the blend. These include ground coriander, cinnamon, cumin, curry leaves, fennel seed, dried chillies and cayenne pepper, as well as ginger and garlic.
A typical Durban curry is made in a heavy pan. Onions are browned in oil, then curry powder is added, followed by the garlic and ginger. This mixture is simmered before the lamb, chicken, beef or fish is folded in and then all the remaining ingredients are added. The pan is covered and the dish is left to simmer, bringing all the flavours together. Coriander is added just before serving. Durban curry is usually served over rice, with condiments such as chutney, sambals and papadums.
The best places to find the ingredients for a Durban curry are the Durban Spice Market, the Spice Emporium and Gorima’s. These are the homes of spicy blends of curry powders, one of which has been fondly named ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’ known for its fiery flavours. Remember, that although Durban curries can bring tears to the eye, there is always plenty of flavour in every dish.
What’s also notable in the world of local curry – if you ask any Indian Durbanite ‘who makes the best curry?’ – they will always say their mother does!
The quest for the perfect curry has spread throughout the world, but what’s put KwaZulu-Natal on the culinary map – apart from our famous Durban curries – is the invention of the ‘bunny chow’.
The word ‘bunny’ is derived from the word ‘bania’ which, in Durban, describes an Indian trader. This unique street food – a simple, yet tasty meal – is essentially a curry served in a bread ‘bowl’. The popularity of this dish has encouraged even the poshest curry restaurants to serve a bunny chow.
The bunny chow is a hollowed-out quarter, half or full loaf of bread, filled with any curry, including beef, mutton, chicken or beans. The bread which was removed to make room for the curry is then placed on top of the bunny like a lid, before it is wrapped. Some chefs even add sambals to their bunnies
So how do you eat a bunny? Local etiquette dictates that a bunny chow should always be eaten with the fingers – tear pieces off of the side of the loaf and dip them in the gravy. The trick is to avoid taking pieces off the loaf thatare below the gravy line. Also, steer clear of the gravy if you are in real difficulties with the heat, as experience has shown that it is the hottest part of the curry.
The Oyster Box in Umhlanga Rocks, is the perfect place to enjoy a Durban curry in style. The Ocean Terrace, which overlooks the Indian Ocean, offers an array of gastronomic delights all day, including a full English breakfast buffet or an à la carte menu for lunch and dinner. But it’s Durban’s finest Indian cuisine from The Curry Buffet that is a highlight for every curry enthusiast.
The incredible Curry Buffet attracts curry fans from all over the world. The impressive selection of Indian cuisine, as well as locally inspired dishes, includes over 10 curries daily.
“Our chefs use delicate blends of spices and fresh herbs to create meat, fish and vegetarian curries – each a masterpiece in itself,” says General Manager Wayne Coetzer. “Come and enjoy our freshly prepared Tandoori chicken, our signature traditional Durban lamb curry or the famous chicken and prawn curry”. These and many more have become firm favourites.
Also on the menu is a Singapore fish curry, a spicy lamb vindaloo and smooth textured butter chicken. Vegetarian options include bean and botie, vegetable korma and sugar bean curry. Fresh condiments, like lime, mango and jack fruit pickle, as well as various chutneys, sambals and fruits, go hand in hand with naan breads, papadums and roti to ensure a perfect feast.
And guests are encouraged to taste and relish each one!
Executive chef, Kevin Joseph, who oversees this delectable feast, describes his cooking style as ‘classic with a twist of modern’. He is passionate about food and cooks from the heart, an attitude he has clearly passed onto his two young sons who he says are both his biggest critics and biggest supporters. Kevin believes in generous portions and gets the most pleasure from people enjoying good food. Kevin is emphatic about using the freshest ingredients available and prefers to source ingredients locally.