Food coma of the Bohri kind

It is one thing to walk into a restaurant and another altogether to be served a meal cooked with love at someone's home. The inherent pleasure one gets, knowing the love and affection that has gone into the dishes adds to the flavour of what you are about to eat. The Dawoodi Bohras are a sect of Shia Islam which originated in Yemen, and later spread to India and Pakistan. In India, they primarily settled in Gujarat (Surat) before spreading out. Being from Yemen, there are a lot of Arabic and Middle Eastern influences to the cuisine. The practice of eating off a thaal (gigantic platter) stem from the fact that Yemen was a poor country and to save resources, people started eating from one big plate. Their food blends the flavours and cooking styles of Gujarati, Parsi, Mughlai and Maharastrian cuisine. It believes in the food being flavourful but not dominated by one taste profile.

The Bohri Kitchen started as a fun experiment by a mother-son duo back in 2014; instead of just the mother and son enjoying a good Bohri meal, this time around they were joined by six strangers. The idea to invite people over for a paid meal was a hit and that’s how The Bohri Kitchen, a concept food dining experience in Mumbai, was born to bring the delectable food inherited by Mom-Chef Nafisa Kapadia to non-Bohris. It’s a unique concept to invite people home over the weekends to experience a seven-course meal with strangers who eventually become friends.

In the Bohri tradition, each meal begins with a taste of salt which activates your taste buds and a beverage such as sweet coconut water blended with its own tender malai. Then comes a flurry of food served in traditional thaals. A thaal has four flavours – the kharaas {savoury}, meethaas {sweet}, jaman {main course} and a salad. The day we went by, we were plied with Triangular Mutton Kheema Samosas which were stuffed to the brim and fried crisp; melt-in-your-mouth Chicken Shammi Kebabs, Nariyal Kebabs which had herbed potato mash and coconut filling, moulded into ovals and deep fried which were paired with condiments like coriander and coconut chutney, chunda, dates and dry fruit chutney and wedges of lime. After appetizers we had drool-worthy Malai Khaja which is also called Bohri puff pastry. The idea of having alternate savoury and sweet dish is to break the monotony for the taste buds and it also accelerates the speed of eating.

The starters were just a precursor of all the goodies that were yet to come. Mains flowed in and the Raan Roast in red masala caught the eye. It is marinated over two days in exotic Bohri masalas, garnished with Salli and Coriander which was accompanied by Rose Sharbat with Sabja Seeds. As your appetite gets going, it’s time to try Mutton Seekh Biryani which was the highlight of the meal for me. The rice was so flavourful that it could even be enjoyed without the meat. Teamed with Pineapple Boondi Raita and home-made jal jeera, the biryani scored on taste, authenticity and honesty of flavours. We couldn’t move an inch but still we made room for exotic hand churned Mango Ice-cream and traditional paan.

When they told us not to have breakfast and not to plan for dinner, they were not joking. Bohri Muslim Cuisine and Kitchen is a divine feast. Served family style on a large plate shared by all. For two hours, dish after dish, we share a meal with some wonderful strangers. As the dishes were served history, the story of Bohri culture, food, and weddings were presented by the family. ‘You are coming in for an experience which starts with us giving you stupid warnings like wear loose clothes. An experience where my mother is cooking food in the kitchen which guests are about to savour; an experience where my father is going around with the food to make sure that your plate is not empty at any given point,” adds Munaf Kapadia, Founder & CEO, The Bohri Kitchen. 

Due to the ever increasing demand of Bohri food they have initiated the concept of Travelling Thaal which allows you to recreate the home-dining experience at a venue of your choice. The Bohri Kitchen is known for combining specialised cuisines with a unique dining experience. The brand claims to be the first to take delectable dishes unique to the Dawoodi Bohra community and make them available to gastronomes and food connoisseurs. Get feasting!