“The greatest irony of all, is that the world believes that my enterprise The Bohri Kitchen TBK was born out of a son’s desire to help his mother realise her dreams,” Munaf reveals in his book How I Quit Google To Sell Samosas (HarperCollins). “While it may have started out that way, it really became about my mother helping me realise my own.”
This is a classic chicken and egg situation: a son seemingly sets out to cure his mother of her obsession with “saas-bahu” soaps on TV and focus on her culinary skills, but instead finds his own feet as an entrepreneur!
Munaf Kapadia’s brainchild The Bohri Kitchen was launched in Mumbai five years ago as a home-dining experience. It has since hosted 4000 home diners, and at its peak in 2019, delivered 1,000 biryanis a day across the city.
He adds, “I do believe that the brand that we created because of a fight with Mom over a TV remote can survive a global pandemic. After all, #BOHRIFOODCOMA is considered a pretty dangerous affliction by itself. I hope that you take away this, if nothing else – if I can do it, so can you.”
This confidence, in fact, grows out of one of the 10 “Samosa Gyans” that Kapadia offers in the book: more than failure be afraid of not trying your best.
This attitude has seen the TBK brand go from strength to strength. Munaf has made it to the cover of Forbes India, and has been featured in Conde Naste Traveller and Entrepreneur magazines, and TBK is a two-time winner of the Times Food Award.
“Mom has been recognised as the Best Home Chef of the Year (2018) by the Indian Restaurant Congress,“ Munaf beams about his idol as well as his fan. “We won the rising star award at Mid-Day’s The Guide Restaurant Awards 2018; Mom was thrilled to receive the award from Shilpa Shetty Kundra, one of her favourite Bollywood actors”.
What’s popular at The Bohri Kitchen currently? Its Ramzan meals: Iftar Box, Haleem with Khammi Roti, Mutton Paya with Sheermal Bread, Raan in Red Masala, and, of course, Smoked Mutton Kheema Samosas.
But it’s the Bohra Thaal that‘s the hands-down winner at TBK.
The Bohra Thaal
Central to the TBK Home Dining Experience is the Bohra Thaal that Kapadia (then still with Google but who quit soon after) and his mother devised. This is how it works: the average thaal is a large steel platter, three feet in diameter, placed slightly elevated on a square cloth mat called a safra, around which seven or eight guests are seated, either cross-legged or somewhere between cross-legged and a padmasana.
Once all the guests arrive, the pre-plated thaal is placed before them with condiments that include pudina chutney, pineapple and boondi raita, aam chunda (a sweet raw mango preserve with chilli powder, kokum aloo, Bhavnagri nirchis, aamba halad (two types of fresh turmeric and black pepper pickled in vinegar) and a bowl of lemon wedges.
The food is served on the thaal course-wise, starting with a kharaas or a savoury item such as TBK’s now famous Smoked Mutton Kheema Samosas. This may be followed by a Nariyal Kebab (tiny vegetarian kababs stuffed with mashed potato, spring onions and desiccated coconut).
Eating the samosa is an art in itself. You bite off the top, and squeeze in some lime juice and green chutney to get the full flavour of the smoked mutton kheema – an experience that invariably has guests asking for more!
The kharaas is followed by a meethas or sweet dish (to help balance the gut), for instance, a Malai Khaja, a kind of Bohra Baklava.
Then comes the more serious food like the Raan in Red Masala – a one kilo plus a leg of a goat marinated for over two days and cooked on a high pressure flame for a couple of hours.
The next up is the jaman aka main course – it could be either Kaari Chawal or a Bohra Dam Biryani.
Next up is the hand churned Sancha Ice Cream made in a wooden barrel with a steel cylinder fitted inside, followed by a Gundi Paan.
The aim is to ensure that “when someone is done with the meal and leaves our home, they do so not only with full stomachs but full hearts and minds as well.”
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