Yesterday I returned from a trip to South Africa, one of the most fascinating, beautiful, exhilarating, heartbreaking places I've ever been. I'm still sorting it all out in my head -- What did I learn there? What were my favorite and least favorite parts? What would I recommend to friends, family and, of course, readers? -- and I'm sure I'll be blogging about it for weeks to come.
While South Africa challenged my heart and my mind, the one part of me that was constantly happy was my stomach. The food, quite simply, was fabulous. The so-called "rainbow nation's" mix of people create food bursting with character and flavor unlike any I've ever experienced. Though I supped at some of the finest restaurants in the winelands, the dish I can't stop thinking about is one I first tried at a bustling eatery inside a car repair shop, a heavenly creation called bunny chow.
Durban's signature dish, bunny chow has mysterious origins (and is also the name of an MTV-produced 2006 movie). Most likely invented by Indian restaurateurs (Durban has the highest Indian population in South Africa), "bunnies" are essentially curry in a bread bowl. A stew of beans, meat or seafood, potatoes and lots of spicy gravy get poured in hollowed-out quarters or half-loaves of bread, with the scooped out insides served on top. You can use the insides and the bowl as your spoons, which reminds me of eating the injera "plate" at Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants. The couple of bunnies I had in South Africa were among my favorite meals, and neither cost more than 24 rand -- a filling meal for about $3.50.
Does anyone know of any restaurants in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area that serve bunnies? I've been looking online but haven't found any yet, though I have found some recipes to try at home. Okay, I'll admit it: I'm obsessed.
I'll also admit that this is not the first time I've gone gaga for something I ate on vacation: Jamaica inspired a big pot of goat curry and spicy beef patties, and I started rolling my own sushi after visiting Japan. Of course, the ultimate dining obsession came from spending my junior year in Paris, where fresh bread and cheese became staples I continue to eat.
I imagine I'm not the only one out there who falls in love with dishes while traveling and tries to find or recreate them after returning. What foods have you discovered while traveling, and what lengths have you gone to to find them back home?
By Christina Talcott |
January 17, 2008; 7:30 AM ET
Tales from the Road
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