By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
When I was a teenager my friends and I were masters of the man sandwich. It’s a simple concept; rather than creating unnecessary washing up use complex carbohydrates as a tool to demolish a meal in a sandwich/ mop up/ top up attack that is a proverbial middle finger to table manners. Everything in a sandwich; jobs a good ‘un.
What we didn’t realise is that we were participating in a very primitive version of a culinary movement that is currently taking London by storm. Of course, as is usually the case the great minds of the capital have turned a concept of working class origin into a gastro treat, but do not be deterred; The manwich turned glamwich is a treat to behold.
The origins of the meal in a bread bun was not, as I have just alluded, born from an adolescent TV dinner culture in South Leeds in which carbs were used to counter the copious amount of cheap tinnies. In fact, it was of a far more practical nature.
Writing on the subject in the London Evening Standard, Susannah Butter (lol), explained that in the 1940’s when South African sugar plantation workers became fed up with the roti bread they took their packed lunch to work in going soggy they decided to solve the problem by using a hollowed out loaf of white bread which was more versatile and more suited to their curry-based cuisine.
The handy work-based practice evolved to become a staple South African street food. Bunny Chow, as it is now known, is a spicy dish of steaming curry made with mutton, chicken, mince, lamb or kidney beans and served in a hollowed out loaf of bread. Originating in Durban, the bread from the centre is placed on top acting as both insulation to keep the curry warm and a tool to scoop with so you can literally watch your plate of food diminish as you eat.
The sort of food you’d expect to see at a Hansel and Gretel dinner party, if you will.
Breakfast in Bread
And now the concept of the ‘hollowed loaf plate’ has caught on in London with a British twist. The full English is no stranger to being stuffed between two slices of mighty white, but serving it Bunny Chow style is a rather novel concept.
So novel, in fact, that Bunnychow of London’s Wardour Street managed to scoop the award for the UK’s most innovative breakfast in a nationwide contest. The restaurant offers five loaf-based recipes from the original Durban Bunny to the Chakalaka Bunny, Veggie Bunny, Piri Piri Pork Bunny and the ultimate British bun; The Full English Bunny. Sausage, home cured bacon, button mushrooms, bobotie spiced beans, tomato, bunnychow’s homemade black pudding and a fried egg all in a delightful loaf of hollowed bread; bliss!
And like all good things, the secret hasn’t kept secret for long. The Barge House Café in Haggerston has its own take on the fry-up in a loaf that is quite superb. Slow-roast tomatoes, oyster mushrooms, leeks, Cumberland sausage, bacon, cheese and an egg that peaks above the hole in the bread in a luring fashion. The bread is sourced from the Better Health Bakery and coupled with a house-infused chilli Bloody Mary the glamwich is among the best I’ve seen in London.
Long live the manwich!