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, founder of the hugely successful The Bohri Kitchen (TBK), clarifies that “it really became about my mother helping me realize my own dreams.” In five years, TBK has hosted close to 4,000 home diners on weekends and at its peak in 2019 was delivering 1,000 biryanis a day across Mumbai, he writes in “How I Quit Google To Sell Samosas” (HarperCollins).
He reports that her mother has also won awards and achieved semi-celebrity status with a growing list of fans in Bollywood.
Covid-19 has hit TBK too, but says Kapadia, “The brand that we created because of a fight with Mom over a TV remote can survive a global pandemic. After all, #BOHRIFOODCOMA (the state in which some guests found themselves in after a meal at the TBK Home Dining Experience) is considered a pretty dangerous affliction by itself.
“Through this book, I hope to inspire you. I hope to make you laugh a little and I hope that you take away this, if nothing else — if I can do it, so can you,” he maintains.
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.
Central to the TBK Home Dining Experience is the Bohra Thaal that Kapadia and his mother devised. It is a large steel platter three feet in diameter placed slightly elevated on a square cloth mat called a safra around which 7-8 guests are seated cross legged.
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, Bhavnagri mirchis, 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. 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 flavor of the smoked mutton kheema. 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+ leg of a goat marinated for over two days and cooked on a high pressure flame for a couple of hours. Next up is the jaman aka main course — it could be either Kaari Chawal or a Bohra Dam Biryani. You finish with 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, writes Kapadia, “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. The world’s best brands and businesses are built on authenticity, creativity and their ability to give customers something unique.”
I have made the cover of Forbes India, featured in Conde Naste Traveller and Entrepreneur magazines.
On the comeback trail since January, TBK is currently servicing from its Worli kitchen. Its Ramzan special menu includes an Iftar Meal Box, Haleem with Khammi Roti, Mutton Paya with Sheermal Bread, Raan in Red Masala, and, of course, Smoked Mutton Kheema Samosas.
As Kapadia puts it in one of his “Samosa Gyans”: I might not be a billionaire, but I know I’ve achieved enough to inspire you to get off your seat.