Express News Service
Food remains a key factor in strengthening communities. However, families can have diverse ways to prepare the same dish – an additional ingredient or an extra step in the cooking process – despite belonging to the same community.
These recipes, then, become prominent indicators of cultures and unique family practices. We look at two Delhi-based ventures that are offering entrepreneurial opportunities to local women by borrowing from generational family recipes belonging to a certain community – across states – to create unique dishes.
A flavourful endeavour
In an attempt to revive generation-old recipes of the women from a low income migrant settlement in Mandawali, East Delhi, Khwab Welfare Trust – a Vinod Nagar-based humanitarian organisation that works towards women and youth empowerment – launched a culinary initiative, Ambiya-Memoirs of Taste. The Trust set-up this initiative with 10 women who are originally from Bihar, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.
The idea to establish Ambiya was developed in 2020 – this is when the Trust identified a group of women from the community, asking them to provide samples of a recipe handed down through the generations. The samples included snacks – different namkeen, chivda, and papad – or pickles. Lata (35) from Uttarakhand, a member of Ambiya, recounts submitting her family’s amla achar to the launch team.
“I had seen my mother and grandmother make it in the village. It was interesting to think that something that I had grown up eating could be part of a business,” she says. Borrowing either the ingredient or the cooking method from across recipes of the same dish, the team created a new dish altogether as part of Ambiya’s menu.
While Instagram is the platform through which they sell their food (@ambiyafoods), Ambiya also takes part in pop-up sales in the city. Apart from snacks such as masala nimki and gur para, they have also incorporated dishes such as litti chokha, dal pakode, kheer, malpua, etc.
Ambiya’s project leader, Annapurna Dasgupta, shares, “The malpua is a cross-over learning between the women from Uttarakhand, UP, and Bihar.”
Adding trust to taste
Zaika-e-Nizamuddin (ZeN), a self-help group from Nizamuddin Basti, was initiated by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in 2012 under the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative. The 11 women of ZeN – they started by preparing healthy snacks – introduced a catering business in 2015. The food, which are old family recipes shared by these women, feature Mughlai dishes such as shammi kebabs, biryani, etc., that have, over time, become iconic to Nizamuddin Basti.
To cater to a larger audience, the team has standardised their dishes. “The preparation changes according to families; some like it spicier than others. Earlier, the food made by each of us was different but now, we have created a special menu,” shares Noorjahan (28), a chef who joined ZeN in 2015.
With such an approach, the venture – they sell through food aggregators and via a website (nizamuddinrenewal.org) – has secured about 400 loyal customers. Noorjahan concludes, “Now we are a confident, self-sufficient group.”