Our expert home chefs lure diners away from generic restaurant food with specialised menus, handpicked ingredients and a focus on strong regional flavours. By Rashmi Rajagopal
While restaurateurs keep up with gourmand trends the world over, the spotlight is shining on the honest flavours generated by a new breed of chefs who are taking their art out of family kitchens into the city, and bridging the gap between fine dining and fast food. With home chef-driven delivery site masalabox.com set to launch in March and Flavours From Home — a home-chefs’ mela to be held at the Westin Garden City, Mumbai on February 22, this pool of experts is receiving well-deserved attention. From authentic Kutchi Memon cuisine to Mediterranean fare and Pan Asian treats, our competent city-based crew make entertaining easier, both on your palates and wallets.
Her specialty may be biryanis of every imaginable kind (dum, Hyderabadi, Bangalore and Kerala and authentic Muslim), but Huma Ali is very versatile in the kitchen. She originally started off with Continental cuisine and then branched to Indian, extending her repertoire to include Burmese, Thai, Chinese and Mexican food. “Of our Burmese dishes, the khow suey is really popular. As are most of our Thai dishes. Interestingly, Chinese food has taken a back seat possibly because it’s so easily available elsewhere,” explains Ali.
Though home-based, she delivers impeccable service and quality which is why she is very choosy about her clients. “I am very exclusive. I only cater where I know my food will be appreciated and understood,” she shares. Clients can opt for a set menu or pick and choose the dishes of their choice, or better still, leave it to Ali to customise the menu according to their needs. “I always tell my clients to tell me what they want and leave the rest to me,” Ali tells us. From puttanesca tarts, zucchini roll-ups to mini pita with goats cheese and fig, she has something for everyone. Dessert options range from banoffee pies with strawberry and mango, key lime pie, apple pie and panna cotta to chocolate mousse, brownies, sticky date and walnut pudding. Rs.750 upwards. Details: 9844074798
Hashi Kushalappa’s skills span Mediterranean, Continental and Asian cuisine, but her specialty lies in her Coorg roots. Originally part of a venture that home delivered ready-to-cook food, she soon branched off to set up Home Gourmet on her own. If you are in the mood for Mediterranean fare, we suggest you opt for her salads (creamy pesto pasta and classic tabouleh) and tarts (ricotta and basil). She also recommends the spinach and feta quiche and mushroom and spinach and cottage cheese tart. The Asian section is a mix of Thai, Malaysian and Chinese, with inclusions like sweet potato and tofu curry and beef and eggplant curry. The food is non-greasy as oil is used sparingly and dishes are baked instead of deep-fried, if possible. On special request, Kushalappa also offers dishes that are not on the menu. Off her Indian menu, the hot favourites are the pandhi curry, Coorg-style mutton and chicken curry, and kori rottis. Home Gourmet also offers an impressive selection of desserts like apple pie, lemon mousse cheese cake and sour cream walnut streusel. Rs.40 upwards. Details: 9880709498
While Miriam Paul’s dishes include everything from hearty Continental fare, Thai delicacies and an elaborate selection of desserts, cakes and cookies, her list of classic Anglo Indian hits is what drew our attention. Titled Anglo Banglo, her catering service is a venture that harks back to the colonial times, with a range of Indian and British culinary traditions.
Paul has over 100 dishes on the menu, although everything is done personally herself, from the prep work to the garnish. Choose from the quintessential railway mutton curry, dal mash, ball curry or the bad word curry, roast beef, bobo curry, pepper water, muligatawny soup and tongue roast. Rs.400 upwards. Details: facebook.com/anglobanglokitchen
Although her USP of making everything portioned for a single person has earned her the reputation as the go-to person for kids’ birthday parties, the young Diya Nanjapa offers a well-balanced mix of bite-sized sweet and savoury treats, for both adults and children. Choose from a range that includes rainbow jelly, caramel popcorn, doodle doughnuts (chocolate glazed and topped with colourful sugar patterns), cookie jars (assorted mini cookies like chocolate, oatmeal and raisin, and butter) for those with a sweet tooth. On the savouries side, she has a whole range of quiches, pies, burgers and pizzas with plenty of toppings and fillings to choose from. As an added bonus she also enjoys working themes creatively into the decor and menu.
“I started my career in advertising. One day, I got tired of it. I took a gap year and travelled the world exploring food and culture globally, and spent some time in the Andamans as a diving instructor. When I came back, I knew I wanted to do something related to cooking,” shares Nanjappa. “That’s when I remembered my homemade childhood treats that you cannot find anywhere now. Everything for our birthday parties were made by our mother. So I decided to start off with my childhood favourites, like fudge and marshmallows,” she reveals. Rs.25 upwards. Details: mealboat.com
Siraj provides her clients with a curated peek into an authentic Kutchi Memon kitchen. The menu is choc-a-block with meaty treats from Afghani kebab and brain pakoras to rogan gosht and warki samosas. For something unusual, you might want to try her madina roti (minced lamb-stuffed puff pastry topped with an egg and deep fried), Karachi chops (onion and tomato-based gravy with whole black peppers), kut (horse gram cooked over wood fire for 48 hours) and kadhu gosht (lamb cooked with bitter gourd). Known for her biryanis, her offerings also include a few baked dishes, such as chicken lasagne and corn and spinach bake. The dessert menu is also extensive enough with a mix of Indian and non-Indian favourites like matka firni, kheer puri, baklava cupcakes, and panna cotta. One can also choose from her set menus depending on the size of the party. Her charges are inclusive of cutlery, crockery and service boys, so you can truly let your hair down. Rs.250 upwards per plate. Details: 9854878300
It is such a challenge to find authentic Bengali food in Bangalore,” begins Shibani Datta, of Bong Platter. “What is currently available is very commercialised and usually, what’s on offer are standard dishes that everyone knows about. There’s so much more to our food than luchis and sandesh,” she adds.
Started barely six months ago, Bong Platter specialises in niche Bengali food. “Certainly nothing that you will find in say, a Bengali mess,” smiles Datta. Based in Whitefield, their food is meant to be ordered in platters, with the menu changing every week.
Datta highly recommends the mutton kosha curry, a thick gravy-based dish, and the prawn malai curry — prawns cooked in coconut cream. Their bread crumb-coated bhetki fry too is a surefire hit, as is the patol dolma, a novel dish for those not too familiar with Bengali cuisine that features pointed gourds stuffed with minced mutton. The baked rabri topped rasagulla dish too is a must-try, though it’s not strictly Bengali, shares Datta. The menu for the week is up every Tuesday and orders need to be placed a day in advance. They only cater to a maximum of 25 people per order, to ensure that the taste remains authentic and homely. Rs.200 upwards. Details: facebook.com/bongplatter