Gourmet comes home

Leading chefs have curated new food concepts to stay relevant in these tough times 
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

I am shaping my next project, a nouveau, home-delivery format, centred around Indian cuisine,” says Pune-based Chef Amninder Sandhu, hot on the heels of the success of her home delivery kitchen, Iktara, that opened after the pandemic broke out.  

Sandhu isn’t alone. Many established chefs have started new initiatives and spin-offs as home dining has grown into a wildly popular sector. Mumbai-based Chef Prateek Sadhu of Masque (featured in Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants 2020), launched Paushtik recently. It is a special brand of masalas. “Involved in this enterprise are my wife Aashina Kaul, and friend Zainab Burmawalla.” Paushtik’s best sellers are milk masala, ‘immunity combo’, Kashmir mongra saffron, Kolhapuri masala, guntur chilli from Andhra Pradesh, bhoot jolokia from Northeast India. 

The masalas are mostly organic and are sourced from their areas of origin, hand-roasted by a small Pune-based women collective. “There is definitely a market for spice blends, single-origin spices, hyper-local masalas, curated mixes, high-quality whole spices with so many conscious kitchens and people championing clean eating and simple, healthy consumption. New mothers, who are a rapidly growing customers base, want their children to eat fresh, nutritionally sound food,” shares Sadhu. He has learned about pitla pre mix, paan ki jad, triphala, pipli and the kala goda masala indigenous to Maharashtra. Are the masalas Masque-league? “Absolutely!” he says. Next up, is an expansion into the condiment category. 

The Cloud kitchen category beckoned celebrated Chef Vicky Ratnani and he launched The SpeakEasy Kitchen in December in 2020. “It is gruelling work, but a lot of fun,” confesses Vicky, whose iconic specials are Sindhi Mutton Curry, Sindhi Biryani, Sindhi Kadi served with Tuk. His childhood food memories come alive in the legendary Dal Pakwan. “The menu is globally inspired since my kitchen is innovative, freestyle,” he explains. “The full roast chicken soaked in brine, marinated and slow-cooked is one of my bestsellers, along with fusion burgers.” This is a marked shift from gourmet gospels he is synonymous with. “Understanding the demographics of the home delivery customer base is a different science,” he confesses. “How to cook, and pack, is a total shift from the five-star environment. The food has to impress, on point. It has been a challenging and  remarkable learning curve,” he grins. An eclectic menu, with weekend specials and nouveau concept boxes thrown in is set to impress. “Up next is a chicken pakora bun,” reveals Vicky.   

Chef Shereen Perez moved from Colombo to Chennai to tend to her aging mother. She had time on her hands. “Bread is the most forgiving of all dough. More and more people began baking at home during the lockdown driven by passion, as therapy or to have fun, with kids. My baby was the DIY bread-baking box that came up in November,” says Shereen. The trailblazer Honey Box simplifies artisanal bread-making with homemade bread flour, Himalayan salt, yeast, parchment sheets, and an instruction sheet. There are variants in artisan crunchy, multigrain, focaccia and pizza. “Add water, or olive oil (for focaccia), and bake,” claims Perez, busy with online baking tutorials and orders pouring in from across Chennai. In the making is a bun and pao box, personalised by mixing ingredients in egg, sugar, and honey.

In Kolkata, 23-year-old Chef Tanuj Sahay struck gold with his new cloud kitchen, Pronto Gourmet Food, selling goat burgers (‘greatest of all times’ lamb fare), beanalicious (vegetarian) burgers, falafel, and chicken shawarmas. “I have earned more money since November than I did in Dubai as an executive chef in a pair of five-star properties,” he says.  Sahay wants to de-stigmatise fast food which is panned for processed ingredients.  “I want to be a game changer in creating umami flavours in Kolkata. We make the juiciest patties, unique flavoured oils, noodles, pizzas and shawarmas. Our specialties are lip-smacking pork, mutton, fish, chicken shawarmas.  Sahay’s second cloud kitchen is already up and running. 

Bengaluru-based Chef Avijit Deb Sharma started baking and his customer base has grown over 4,500 since last year. “I netted a contract for baking snacks for a multiplex, and have bought over Zesty 
Hut in Sarjapur, selling weekend takeaways like Awadhi biryani, kebabs, and Bengali specials.”  

Delhi chef Vikramjit Roy of Hello Panda says, “I decided to break the cliché associated with cloud kitchens by opening a live one in Gurgaon. Fine ingredients, delicious pan-Asian food, the best hands and food dispatched in bio-plastic containers are the USPs,” he says. “As another first, we started with 190 dishes on the menu.” Two locations, and four brands old, business is fairly consistent. 

Chew on this.

Avocado Wonton Tacos by Chef Vikramjit Roy

✥ Wonton Sheet - 5
✥ Avocado - 100 gm
✥ Green tomato ceviche - 75 gm
✥ Wasabi aioli - 10 gm
✥ Pickled jalapenos - 5
✥ Chopped scallion - 1 tbsp.

✥ Cut the wonton sheet round
✥ Fry it till crispy in the shape of a taco
✥ Mix chopped avocado, green tomato ceviche together and scoop it inside the taco shells
✥ Top with wasabi aioli, sliced Jalapeños and chopped scallions, and serve immediately 

Green Tomato Ceviche

✥ Green tomato - 100 gm
✥ Red pepper - 25 gm
✥ Yellow pepper - 25 gm
✥ Green pepper - 25 gm
✥ Onion - 20 gm
✥ Green chili - 10 gm
✥ Salt - to taste
✥ Vinegar - 25 ml
✥ Sugar - 1 tbsp.
✥ Cumin powder - 1 tbsp. 

✥ Cook all the ingredients and blend. Preserve in the fridge for two days, post which can be used as required. 

Wasabi aioli 

✥ Wasabi powder - 1 tbsp.
✥ Veg mayonnaise - 4 tbsp.
✥ Lemon juice - 1 tbsp.
✥ Mirin (sweet sake) - 1 tbsp.
✥ Gin - 1/2 tbsp 

✥ Mix all together and reserve in a squeeze bottle for use later

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