Durban’s Influence on South Africanized Indian Cuisines

Durban’s Influence on South Africanized Indian Cuisines

South Africa is allegorically a mixing pot of several cultures adopted from different regions. The dense political and colonized past influenced by the Zulu warriors, Indian dwellers, Dutch settlers, and the British colonists amalgamated the flavors of the cuisines brought to South Africa. The ingredients and spices collected by South Africans are from all over the world. There are several districts and provinces of the country, among them Durban is one of the cities that was influenced by the Indian cuisines and cooking styles. Many people are unaware of the fact, but some prominent writers have described Durban’s influence on South African dishes in food blog of Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg and other places. This prominent article showcases the food influence and origin of people in Durban at South Africa.

History of Durban

People may get surprised with a fact that Durban has the highest population of Indian migrants. At 1860 during Apartheid, labors of India were imported to South Africa for working on Sugar Plantations. During that time Durban became the place where the Indian people were kept. Time morphed South Africa into a democratic country and the early-colonial city Durban got densely populated with sub-cultural and Indian habitats.

Foundation of Cuisines

Every cuisine and its ingredients have specific origin. For instance, Thai cooking focus on ingredients like ginger, coconut, and lemongrass. Italian cooking heavily relies on tomato, garlic, and basil. Indian cuisines are a combination of lots of spices like cardamom, black pepper, chili, cumin, coriander leaves/seeds, bay leaves etc. The spices and ingredients are the symbols of cuisines brought to South Africa. However, Durban at South Africa has is popular for Indian recipes like curries and spices because of Indian migrants in the city.

Earlier, people of South Africa used to avoid coconut milk and maize meal, but now locals and visitors of the country love the Indian food ingredients like coconut and maize meals. Restaurants of cities of South Africa like Cape Town and Johannesburg also serves Indian cuisines made of spices.

Here is some example of South Africanized Indian cuisines available in cities like Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, etc.

1: Bunny Chow

This is a hybrid recipe made of unsliced bread hollowed out like a bowl and filled with spicy curry. The term ‘Bunny’ is derived from the Indian word, ‘Bania’, which means spice trader or merchant.

Story behind the cuisine

During Apartheid, Indian and Zulu populations worked and lived in KwaZulu Natal, but according to ‘Segregation law’, Indians were not allowed to serve Zulus, so Indian was sent to Durban. In the city, they taught several cuisines to the native to South Africa and started making Indian dishes like Bunny Chow in restaurants and home. The native of the place liked the recipe and later this hybrid food became worldwide popular but known as a South African dish.

2: Samoosas

This food item is termed to Samoosas from an Indian word ‘Samosa’, flour patties stuffed with potatoes and peas. This snack can be served as morning and evening breakfast. Samoosas are still popular in both India and South Africa because of its salty outlet and spicy stuffing. People of every age love this food-item because of its crispiness and crunch.

Story behind the snack

During Apartheid in Durban at South Africa, the popularity of this cuisine was rich because people were engulfed by poverty and at time potatoes was both cheap and easy to cook the vegetable. Therefore, migrants from India started cooking potato with salt and some other spices and stuff them inside flour doe-pockets. After the procedure, they used to fry the snack in deep oil. The crispiness and crunch became popular globally including Durban and other cities of Africa.

3: Cape Malay Curry

Cape Malay is a curry recipe, which can be cooked with chicken or lamb. It is a traditional recipe made by Indians. This curry is a stew made by a combination of onions, garlic, coriander leaves, curry leaves, tomato, salt and other Indian spices like cumin, coriander seeds, chili, turmeric powder, and curry powder.

Story behind the cuisine

Not only in India but this cuisine was popular in Afghanistan also. People of India and Afghanistan introduced people of South Africa with this spicy recipe after they arrived in the country. Earlier the name of the recipe was ‘Malay Curry’ but later it became popular in Durban and Cape Town. People of Cape Town appreciated the recipe and chefs in the restaurant of the city termed ‘Malay Curry’ into Cape Malay Curry.

4: Chakalaka

This is a popular dish loved by South African community originated in India. Zulu termed Chakalaka ‘Amasi’, which is a fermented thick curry combined with lentils, green vegetables, corns and Indian spices. Restaurants use to serve the nutritious cuisine with rice or pap.

Story behind Chakalaka

During the adverse period of Apartheid, people were becoming lean because of battles, poverty and discrimination policies done between the Indian and South Africans. Therefore, Indian immigrants of Durban tried to collect some vegetables and cook this curry with some spices because eating such nutritious food used to help them to gain strength to fight with troubles.


These points are the major reasons that Durban is famous for Indian spices and their amazing cuisines came out from creative minds. Several prominent food blogs of Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria has also mentioned the name of this recipes and ingredients, but few people are familiar with the influence and stories behind these recipes.