How weekend Bohri food pop-up inspired F&B start-up

·4-min read

New Delhi, May 27 (PTI) A new book tells the story of how an adventurous entrepreneur grew a weekend Bohri food pop-up from his Cuffe Parade home in Mumbai into an F&B start-up with a Rs 4 crore turnover.

In 'How I Quit Google to Sell Samosas: Adventures With The Bohri Kitchen', Munaf Kapadia talks about his big hits - citywide delivery kitchens, catering for Bollywood's biggest celebrities and winning a reality show - and a few misses.

In August 2015, Munaf quit his four-year-long career as a consultant at Google to pursue another venture with his mother - a home dining experience designed around the culinary traditions of the Dawoodi Bohra community.

Two years down the line, as 'chief eating officer' of food tech start-up The Bohri Kitchen (TBK), he made the Forbes India 30 Under 30 list.

Among other things, Munaf describes in detail about the Bohra thaal, which is a large steel platter.

According to tradition, Bohras sit on the floor on a square cloth mat called a safra and eat from the thaal. The average thaal is three feet in diameter and placed on top of a kundli (anything that gives the thaal a slight elevation).

'Seven or eight hungry guests can be seated around it, cross-legged so that everyone can reach the centre of the thaal. At any Bohra function, you are likely to find yourself randomly sitting around a thaal, shoulder-to-shoulder with complete strangers,' the book, published by HarperCollins India, says.

Talking about the TBK home dining experience, Munaf says diners are first served the signature Nariyal Paani cooler or malai blended with sweet coconut water.

After all the guests arrive and are seated, a pre-plated thaal is placed before them on a low coffee-table with condiments and a neemak daani or a salt shaker.

Condiments served include Pudina Chutney, Pineapple and Boondi Raita, Aam Chunda (a sweet raw mango preserve with chilli powder), Kokam Aloo (potatoes cooked in a tart kokam masala), Bhavnagari Mirchis, Aamba Halad (two types of fresh turmeric and black pepper pickled in vinegar) and a bowl of lemon wedges.

Munaf says this 'concept of eating from a thaal has its roots in our origins in the Middle East. Eating from a large shared plate had manifold benefits for the nomadic Arabs. With several people flanking a thaal, I imagine it reduces the chances of any sand or desert wind blowing into your food.

'In countries where water is scarce, having to clean and wash one big utensil as opposed to several smaller utensils could've also been the practical reason why eating from a single thaal was common. Food wastage reduces significantly as well. Lastly, there is a certain bonding theme at play here.' The food is served on a thaal course-wise, starting with a kharaas or savoury item such as smoked mutton keema samosas. 'This may be followed by a Nariyal Kebab (tiny vegetarian kebabs stuffed with mashed potato, spring onions and desiccated coconut).' The kharaas is followed by a meethas or a sweet dish.

Alternating between savoury and sweet is a tradition Bohras follow as they believe it helps balance the gut and allows one to indulge in seven courses of food.

An example of a classic Bohra meethas is the Malai Khaja, a kind of Bohra Baklava.

'Once you've reset your palate and activated those digestive juices, we move onto more serious food such as the legendary Raan in Red Masala which is a one kilo-plus leg of a goat marinated for over two days and cooked on a high-pressure flame for a couple of hours. Served on the bone, it is garnished with salli wafer and coriander,' the book says.

The next course is the jaman or main course - it could be Kaari Chawal (curry made from ground peanuts, coconut milk, dry fruits and whole spices) or a Bohra Dum Biryani (multiple layers of rice, masala, marinated vegetables/meat and the signature potatoes).

Next up is Sancha Ice Cream. A 'saancha' is a big wooden barrel with a steel cylinder fitted inside. Between the inner wall of the barrel and the cylinder there's a lot of ice. The cylinder itself is filled with milk, fresh fruit and absolutely no emulsifiers or stabilisers. The ice cream, either fresh sitaphal (custard apple) or peru (guava) with red chilli powder, is hand churned and served.

The ice cream is followed by some Gundi Paan, bringing an end to this gastronomic journey.

Munaf says they don't eat with the guests, but spend a lot of time taking them through every course.

'They (the guests) leave knowing what a Bohra family is, what we believe in and represent, and a little more sensitised to the different cultures that exist around us,' he adds. PTI ZMN RDS RDS

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