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I spent four days working at the Good Food and Wine Show in Durban. I am quite familiar with The Mercury Wine Week, and have visited Durban before, but have decided to see Durban as a Durbanite. Ground level, as one of the locals. Not as one of the tourists that lie on the beach day in and day out. Living in luxury and dining at gourmet foreign cuisine.
I want to see the people, the food and the culture.

The City:

Henry was effectionately known as Lambchops

Today Durban is South Africa’s busiest port, a popular tourist destination and the second largest city after Johannesburg. Founded in 1824 by merchants from the colony of Cape Town which was lead by Henry Francis Fynn. Henry who had reached an agreement with Shaka the king of the Zulus to establish a trading station, calling it Port Natal. In 1835 the town was named Durban the Cape Governor and colonial administrator, Sir Benjamin D’Urban.

The People:

Durban is a melting pot of different races and cultures. It has a large Indian community as well as Blacks Zulu’s and White European citizens.
The first Indians arrived in Durban on the Turo on the 16th of November 1860 many of which were indentured labourers to work in the sugar cane fields in Natal. Later Indian merchants followed and established themselves in the city. Making Durban the host the largest Indian population outside of India. settlers established a trading station at “Port Natal” in the early 18-hundreds and found the city of Durban.
The Zulu tribes migrated from the central Congo area from the early 16th century and established themselves in the Natal coast.

The Food: 

Miles and miles of Maas

The interesting thing is how the Indian spices got integrated into the food culture of Durban. Ordering a South African Farm breakfast? It comes served with Achar (a pickle made from different fruits and vegetables like mangos, limes and carrots and flavoured with Indian spices) Ordering from Nando’s? Even their mild spicy option is hot! Durban is the curry capital of South Africa but there are also plenty of African food to choose

Turkish delights

from, ranging from maize and meat stews.
I like to juge a city or town by what they stock in their supermarkets. For example. Port Elizabeth EVERYTHING is in bulk. If you want to buy bread the loaves are twice the size as in Cape Town. Rice comes in 10kg bags and so forth. In Durban they have an abundance of everything. Heaps of ham, aisles of Maas (fermented milk, and a traditional beverage for the black inhabitants of Natal) and mountains of vegetables.

My friend Wayne Milne from Take 2 Tours suggested that I should try a Durban Bunny Chow and I made my way over to the Golden Mile and ordered this dish at Pier 107.
A Bunny Chow called a Bunny in Durban (Bunny CHOW is a sure sign of being a tourist or a newbie) is a dish consisting of a hollowed out bread filled with curry. The client has a choice of size of his/her bunny being either a quarter, a half or a full bunny and filled with a curry of a choice, mutton, lamb, chicken or beef. So the experienced Bunny chower (pardon the pun) would order along the lines of “Quarter Mutton!” at the restaurant and the waiter will know exactly what he/she means.

Quarter Mutton

The secret to a good bunny is to make your curry with the best selected Indian spices. Hollow out the piece of bread and fill with the curry. The crust will act as a wall or bowl for your curry as well as soak up the sauce that can be eaten as you break off a piece and dip it in the curry.
Your bunny also comes with a virgin, which is the inside of the bread that was removed when hollowing the bread out. This is served as an aperitif before tuck into your main course.
Gourmet Bunnies are served with sambals or condiments, chutney, onion and tomato salsa or grated carrots.
The is a bit of a dispute as to the origin of the Bunny since there is a school of thought that believes that it was the Durban caddies on the local golf course that wanted their friends to bring them a take away curry. The only bowls that they could get was a hollowed out bread. Another theory is that a restaurant owners, the Banias, served the locals a curry and without having the necessary containers served it in the hollowed out bread. Other theories also exist but these are the two that I liked the most.
It’s a messy affair to eat a bunny but it is worth every messy second of it.

Transport:

I wanted to explore Durban from the metro point of view. I decided to rely on bus as my mode of transport in the city. Durban has a bus service called the People Mover and is a service that runs on a specific route and has numerous stops throughout the city. 200 meters from the establishment that I was staying at was a bus stop. A one way trip will cost you R4.00 or if you want a full day pass you buy a R10.00 ticket. The People Mover is safe, reliable and have friendly service. A couple of trips on the bus around Durban I started to find my way easy, as Durban is a network of one way streets. There is a selection of taxi’s at most corners that would take you to your destination.

Basically Durban is a wonderful holiday destination offering great warm weather (even when there is a thunderstorm outside)
I would love to return again as a tourist enjoying the scenery and the warm Indian Ocean.

But alas, it is back to work… I can really do with a curry on the beachfront right about now…

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