The Bohri Kitchen has been on my list pretty much since its inception and I am in equal parts shocked and disappointed in myself for having taken this long to pay them a visit.
Directed towards providing its patrons a traditional home cooked meal, this seven course affair is only available to a limited number of people every other weekend at the lovely Kapadia residence. Self titled “Chief Happiness Officer”, Hamza and entrepreneurial role model/doting son, Munaf play gracious hosts and guides to the depths of the cuisine while mother / home cook extraordinaire Nafisa Aunty churns out one mouthwatering delicacy after the other, much to the delight of the lucky few seated for that particular meal.
This is not my first time having food on a thaal. Having made some really good friends from the Bohri community at work, I have had the privilege of sitting on a plush, carpeted floor in front of a large steel thaal to tuck into hot rotis and flavoursome curries with a decadent ghee laden halwa to finish.
(Alifiya, if you’re reading this, that lunch between our college tests isn’t one I’m likely to ever forget. You’re amazing and I love you – though I possibly love your grandmom more for her halwa making skills.)
To the unaware, Bohri food derives its roots from Persian, Yemeni and Gujarati cooking, owing to the fact that the first Bohri merchants in India hailed from the Middle East. Slow cooked and so soul satisfying, these dishes are a labour of love, some requiring over two days of prep before it is unceremoniously inhaled by the likes of food lovers like us.
Two flights of wooden stairs lead you to the Kapadias’ front door, the wafting aromas an immediate hit to the senses. Their spacious living room is surrounded by a number of chairs and couches with a couple of centretables in between.
Everyone is given a name tag and offered a refreshing glass of Aam Panna once seated. Sweet and chilled, the mango drink is effective in offering respite from the blistering April sun outside.
The guests are given 20-30 minutes to get to know the other diners better after which an imposing thaal with a bunch of condiments are placed on the centretables.
The condiments we were given (top to bottom):
Bhavnagri Chillies filled with a peanut mixture and roasted with a hint of mustard oil. So delicious, I had to take seconds.
Pickled Amba Haldi or fresh turmeric root with green peppercorns.
Homemade Khajur (Date) Chutney – Sweet and complements the more savoury dishes well.
Green Chutney, filled with mint and coriander.
Chunda, a ripe mango and red chilly jam that offers a fruity sweetness with an occasional punch of spice
Pineapple and Boondi Raita – yogurt based, it pairs well with the more masala heavy rice dishes.
The little container in the middle held salt, which starts a Bohri meal. A ritual called Namak Daani, the youngest diner (or any volunteer) holds the container and offers salt to the other diners, ingestion of which is said to whet the appetite.
And now to the gluttony that ensued:
Keema Patti Samosas
A TBK signature, these bundles of joy have found their way into the menus of Palladium Social, Cafe Free India and a few others. You have a crisp samosa cover that encases smoked mutton mince (keema) and spring onions. Do follow the “rule” Munaf mentions- sprinkle some lemon juice inside the samosa and dip liberally in the green chutney before taking a bite. It rounds out the contents of the samosa and brings out the smokiness of the mince beautifully.
The Bohri version of this delicacy had a spiced mutton and lentil mince which is coated in egg and and fried. The spices while evident are not overpowering and we cleaned the plate in no time.
We were told that it is customary to alternate between sweet and savoury dishes in a Bohri meal as it breaks the monotony and serves as a palate cleanser. And so we were given an unassuming bowl of Phirni to tuck into after the appetisers.
This is quite honestly the best Phirni I have EVER had. Period.
Creamy and cold, with tiny bits of rice, semolina and nuts in every bite, what I loved was that it wasn’t sickeningly sweet. Despite not having a sweet tooth, I am certain I could finish bowlfuls of this marvel.
Legendary TBK Raan in Red Masala
That is the actual name of this dish and for good reason. Leg of lamb, each weighing about a kilo are marinated for 48 hours before they’re cooked. This monstrosity is then topped with crispy threads of fried potato (salli) and fresh coriander.
You are supposed to dig in, hands only and pry apart the fall-off-the-bone meat, scoop up some masala and relish it the most primitive way you can- and we followed those instructions to the tee. The red masala looks scary but is perfectly balanced- not too tomato-ey or spicy. As for the meat itself, I have no words.
The Raan was served with a rose syrup drink topped with chia seeds (sabza). Floral and slightly sour, it made for a great combination with the masala packed meat.
Aptly nicknamed the “Bohri Bake”, you have sizeable chunks of chicken, vegetable and eggs baked together. Simplistic in its execution, these are the opposite of the Raan in their flavour profile and are therefore a great follow up. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of eggs in my food but I enjoyed the impossibly tender chicken in the bake- I have now come to believe that Nafisa Aunty can do no wrong in the kitchen.
Blackcurrant and Dry Fruit Barfi
Our “surprise” dessert of the meal, this came right before the main course. While the palate cleansing concept makes sense, at this point you’re left wondering if maybe TBK can also provide an extra stomach to do justice to the rest of the food on the way.
Regardless, the Barfi was really interesting with a hint of the jammy blackcurrant running through. I did find the khoya in want of some softness but there wasn’t much else to fault.
Mutton Dum Biryani
Again you notice the familiar spiced yet mild treatment of the masala binding the rice and mutton. I found a chunk of really flavourful seekh kebab in my serving and honestly thought for a second that my over taxed tastebuds must be deceiving me when Munaf mentioned that they were added in as a surprise
An important part of the Bohri Biryani, perhaps more than the mutton are the flavoured potatoes in it. I sampled a bit from a friend’s plate and found the seasoned spuds truly worth the praise.
A glass of jaljeera is served alongside as the cumin is said to help ease digestion- much needed after the never ending delicious assault our stomachs were being put through.
Hand churned and made with ripe mangoes in season, they were flavourful without imparting too much sweetness. A perfect end to an amazing meal.
TBK to me is a true representation of what it means to run a “family business” and it’s guided feasts offer a peek into the wonderful world of Bohri food and culture.
The weekend dining concept paired with their flourishing catering and delivery kitchen business really carves a niche for Bohri food in the Indian dining scene while blazing a trail for other aspiring entrepreneurs and competent home cooks who look to make their passion a full time profession.
Here’s wishing the Kapadia clan and the rest of the TBK team success in their future endeavours. I hope to visit again soon, even of it’s at the cost of missing the next three meals to make up for my gluttony.
The #BohriFoodComa is truly worth it.