Take a nibble off the golden triangle's corner. Smell the fragrant steam rising from the mincemeat stuffing. Squeeze some lemon on it. Add a dash of mint chutney. Blow in through the hole to cool the inside. Take a mouthful. Sigh. This is the recommended procedure to relish the famous smoked keema samosa at Mumbai's The Bohri Kitchen (TBK) owned by Munaf Kapadia.
With the city reeling under a never-subsiding coronavirus tsunami, samosas are salvation. So is TBK’s pineapple ice cream, rainbow pulao, zuban (goat tongue) in red gravy, bheja (brain) pakora and ghevar mithai. TBK is a pioneer in organised Bohri commercial cuisine in Mumbai where until four-odd years ago, the menu was niche and the khansamas rare.
Kapadia was inspired by the traditional dinners made by his mother. TBK started off for selective clients being served in the family’s dining room. Mumbai is an eclectic food city - like the butter chicken of Delhi Punjabis and the shami kababs of Purani Dilli, Mumbai's generic food comes from Parsi tables, Irani cafes and the kitchens of the Bohras.
"Security and stability are subjective," says the foodpreneur who quit a job at Google to sell samosas and has been featured in Forbes Under 30 list. The company's monthly turnover reached Rs 35 lakh with over 200 orders a day.
"In August 2015, when I was hesitant to take the leap, my boss said, 'Kapadia, in the worst case scenario, TBK won't work out and you’ll be back to the corporate race. But, if TBK works out, what it would do for your personal and professional growth would be incomparable'. I took his advice.”
To catch up on pandemic reading, a samosa aficionado cannot make a better choice than How I Quit Google to Sell Samosas by Kapadia and published by HarperCollins India. A light-hearted take on his entrepreneurial journey as the Chief Eating Officer of TBK, it captures the highs and lows of setting up a food business.
"My parents have impacted and contributed to my success. They are behind the incredibly high ‘C-Sat’ (customer satisfaction) and the impeccable quality of TBK's menu. It is ironic that people give me credit for ‘empowering my mother’, when it’s the other way round," Kapadia says.
Having become famous for signature Bohri dishes, TBK has wowed the Bollywood crowd. He recalls the evening when a young lady came for a weekend meal. Throughout the meal she kept her sunglasses on. "I was surprised because our living room isn’t that well lit," remembers Kapadia.
It was only when she got up to wash her hands that the family recognised her - film actor Aditi Rao Hydari, a half Bohri herself. Another time, Kapadia got a call from 'Adi' asking for a 'Thaal' experience to be arranged at his residence. He refused since they had not begun catering yet. Later it turned out that it was Aditya Chopra of Yash Raj Films. He wanted to treat his wife Rani Mukherjee, which Kapadia eventually agreed.
Before the COVID-19 wave, Kapadia had scaled up TBK from an exclusive home dining concept to an exotic delivery business with five outlets. "The pandemic stopped us in our tracks," he regrets. Now TBK has shrunk to one outlet, but it plans to expand to other cities such as Delhi and Bengaluru.
"Despite the uncertainty we are not giving up. We are fighting COVID with our own weapon -Bohrifoodcoma which is equally contagious, but of the good kind. We are kind of starting from scratch, one biryani at a time," smiles Kapadia. Mumbai is not complaining about getting infected, for once.
Dal Chawal Palida
Tur dal: 200 gm; methi dana: 1 tbsp; sabut jeera: 1 tbsp; garlic: 2 tbsp chopped; besan: 2 tbsp; onion: 1 chopped; tomatoes: 3-4 chopped; kokum: 2-3; drumsticks: 4 peeled and cut; turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp; chilli powder: 1 tbsp; salt to taste
Leftover dal from the palida; basmati rice: 400 gm soaked for 2 hours; garlic: 2 tbsp; onion: 3 sliced; cinnamon: 1 small stick; cloves: 3; sabut jeera: 2 tbsp; capsicum: 1 sliced; ghee: 3 tbsp
Cook dal with 5 cups of water, salt and turmeric; strain and keep the water; heat 2 tbsp oil, add garlic, saute till golden brown; add methi, jeera, red chilli powder, turmeric and besan; roast and add onions, tomatoes; pour in some of the water of the dal, stirring continuously; add the kokum, drumsticks; let it cook on slow flame till the drumsticks are done; garnish with fresh coriander.
Boil water and add the rice; add salt and juice of one lime. When rice is half-cooked drain out the water; heat ghee; add garlic, jeera, cloves and cinnamon; saute and add onions; fry till golden; add capsicum and cook for 2 minutes; add the remaining dal; In a flat pan layer basmati followed by dal, and rice again; garnish with fried onions; pour 2 tsp of ghee on top; simmer for 20 minutes on a tawa.
Good Food, Good Times
TBK, with its curated home dining concept, takes guests through the history of the Bohra community, the story behind every dish with tidbits of trivia thrown in. The meal is eaten around a Thaal—a large communal metal plate that can seat up to eight people around it. Around 25-50 people are hosted every weekend, with the menu comprising seven courses that changes every week.