Memories always stay with us. Tucked away, dormant for the most part, but make prompt appearances upon the beckoning of our ever rising emotions. For Yuvna Damani Panwar, memories served an important purpose, as they give her one of her most creative ideas, Birdie Num Num. A restaurant that’s a potpourri of her many memories till now and she is honouring them by sharing them with everybody.
How the name of the restaurant came about is also associated with a beautiful memory from her childhood. Panwar’s father would repeat the phrase Birdie Num Num, made famous by Peter Sellers in the movie The Party, when she would wake up hungover, just to annoy her. “He succeeded every single time back then, but now, it’s a wonderful remembrance,” she reminisces.
Her restaurant, a regional Indian cuisine restaurant specialising in coastal food, especially sea food, is a smorgasbord of many more such incidents.
The start traces back to when she watched her grandmother make aam ka achar. “The care and love she put into the process is something that will subconsciously always go into every dish I create,” she says.
Homely Indian food made from family recipes or from remote Indian regions, is what the restaurant proudly sells. Take for instance Nandita Aunty’s Fried Sea Food Platter. Nandita is the mother of Panwar’s good friend. It was something she used to eat during her their holiday at their home in Arpora, Goa.
“It brings back memories of the sea, some cold beers, a dip in the cold water and then siesta. It is basically a celebration of sussegade,” she says with warmness in her eyes. Another borrowed recipe is The Sindhi Kadhi served with Alu Tuk’s.
A lot of others too, were picked up from her travels and many friendships.
Just like Makkar Curry, which comes from another close friend’s cook’s wife at their beach house in the remote Padavne village near Devgad on the coast of Maharashtra. “She was the only one allowed to make the curry because of her secret spice blend. I obviously nicked the details,” she says.
The Dipika’s Gorkha Style Mutton Curry is another great example of inspiration from her surroundings. It comes from her friend’s husband. “The Timbu pepper used in the curry is from his village in Nepal which they promised to supply me for free in barter for naming the curry after her. Thank god for that because Timbu pepper is expensive,” she says.
The recipes, she feels, are a gift to her. “I have merely taken permission to use their beautiful art on my canvas,” she says.
Not to be missed is another interesting dish, called The Magic Egg. It combines bourbon, amaretto, an egg white and banana syrup. “There’s theatricals indulgence with this drink as we throw the whole egg into a shaker and it comes out as a drink. You have to come to see the magic. Abracadabra!,” she signs off.