Tag Archives: Durban

The Bovine Head Market (Durban, South Africa)

When we first arrived in Durban, we took the coastal Highway 2 up the Eastern, past Richards Bay. As we passed through the minor town of KwaMsane around 4pm local time, we noticed a stretch of highway where several dozen groups had all set large cooking fires with metal pots, and were preparing meals, many of them preparing to sell them roadside. The food wasn’t ready yet, and we were actually in a bit of a hurry to get to the Zulu Nyala lodge, but I was curious. Several days later, talking to our Zulu Nyala guide, he told me that what they were preparing was a local dish, “Inyama yenhloko”, which means, literally, “head meat”, and it’s a traditional Zulu dish, especially for special occasions and for the head of the family, although it’s gotten broader acceptance more recently. The process is simple: fresh bovine heads are collected, they skin the heads, cleave the meat off the skulls (usually with an axe), and boil the meat in large pot of salted water, along with some cornmeal bread. It’s then all chopped up, lightly seasoned with a seasoning mix, and served on a wooden board with salt, pepper, and chiles. I was intrigued, but our travel plans didn’t have us driving down any Zulu-region highways at dinner time. But our last full day in Durban had us taking a Cultural Walking Tour of Durban run by a local named Johnny, who showed us many of the various cultural aspects, and sometimes the grittiness, of Durban. It was a very insightful tour, and after seeing the Durban skyline, and visiting several of the area markets, he took us to a very special niche market right outside the Early Morning Market: the very aptly-named Bovine Head Market.

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The Cargo Hold (Durban, South Africa)

Our first full day in Durban was taken up doing some light sightseeing and getting a feel for the area, visiting The Kwazulu Natal Society of the Arts, the Phansi African Art Centre, and spending a nice early afternoon wandering about the expansive Durban Botanical Gardens, after a nice stroll along the Golden Mile beach (which was pleasant, but swimming was not recommended due to elevated bacteria levels from the recent major flooding), we decided to check out one of Durban’s more unique restaurants, Cargo Hold.

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Billal Cuisine (Durban, South Africa)

The next stop on our trip to South Africa was a few days spent in Durban to explore the beachfront and explore the area a bit before heading back to Johannesburg. Durban has an interesting history; it’s the third largest city in South Africa, and one of Africa’s largest ports. Now just part of the larger eThekwini municipality, it is a highly ethnically diverse city, with large Zulu, White, and Asian populations, and the metro area hosts one of the largest Indian populations outside of India. From that history, Durban has developed it’s own variety of Indian food, with one particular dish that’s become well-known: Bunny Chow. We first got turned on to bunny chow from UK chef Ottam Yottolenghi, when he did a Guardian article on the dish. It’s one of those unique fusion dishes, with a loaf of bread (usually white sandwich bread, and sold by the fraction of a load, so a “quarter Bunny” is a 1/4 of a standard loaf), hollowed out and filled with a curry of your choice. The local curries tend on the spicy-but-not-overly hot side, and it’s traditional to eat it by tearing off break and sopping up the bits of curry. There are many, many places to get Bunny Chow in the Durban area (heck, it’s pretty popular across South Africa, I saw it several times in Johannesburg, too), but they were concentrated in the suburbs. Downtown, there’s a number of well-known cafes that serve up Bunny Chow, but one of the better-reviewed ones was Billal Cuisine out by the beachfront.

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