Have you heard of Anaaj? I am guessing the answer would be a simple yes! Anyone who understands, Hindi- India's national language would know that it simply translates into 'grains.' A lesser number of people would be able to join the dots to know that it is something I am concerned with, for now. A few would know of what it means and what it doesn't for me. But only a select handful would know what triggered and got the concept started. Today's agenda is to let those hands open up so that I have a little more than handful of people who should become a part of my journey through the neat kiosks of Anaaj.
|Daliya Aur Daal ki Bhuni Khichri!!|
It all started with a walk down the famed Park Street. It was a rainy day in Kolkata, and I saw an array of stalls on the street selling food of unimaginable variety. There was Biryani, noodles, Chaat, tandoori and what not, but in every lane I turned; I saw a couple of humble carts carrying big aluminium vessels, full of 'Khichri' a dish made with rice, lentils and vegetables. At first, I did think why anyone would want to buy khichri and eat it on the streets, but in came the lunch crowd; and sure as hell there were many who stood by the stall devouring this simple dish. I asked one of them- jhola bearing, bespectacled gentleman- eating the dish as to why does he feel the need of buying a simple dish like khichri, which can easily be ignored. His answer was real, ‘it’s cheap, fills me up and is wonderful for my tummy; then why shouldn’t I?’And he is right. If you look closely, you will know that it is a very balanced meal full of nutrition to fuel your day with energy. It’s light on stomach and takes care of tummy conscious bongs in a way that compares to the gentle caress of our favourite thammi (granny). Cut to North India, where the revered Bhaskor Banerjee of the Piku fame created unimaginable jokes on everything digestion related. And here I stand today, as the madhatter who dared to sell khichri in her corporate based QSR concept- Anaaj- Pulses & Grains.
|The First Customers!!!|
Anaaj- Pulses & Grains is a concept based quick serving restaurant (QSR) that I intend to build as a chain. Launched on December 4th, we are 2 kiosks strong; and we intend to soar up and high with many more concepts and kiosks in the coming months. The ‘Pulses & Grains’ concept is conceptualised keeping in mind the needs of a corporate world, where we sell food for the need, as opposed to food for the want. Now you can and should ask what is this want and need? Well, for that I made this poster-
It’s simply the fact that you might indulge in everything sinful and calorific for days, but at the end of the third day, your body and mind will seek the comfort of a home-styled light Indian meal. After all, it’s human to go back to the comfort of the food you have grown up eating, over anything else. So I am the mad-hatter who sells khichri in North India. And it’s no simple feat. Starting from teaching my hard core north Indian Chefs to cook the perfect Bhuni khichri to letting the cynical customers know the value of a light Indian meal; it wasn’t an easy path. But well, who exactly wants their lives to be a bed of roses. A few challenges here or there is what makes life colourful.
|Balancing the dieting!!|
I took the challenge heads on. In my first kiosk, I stood selling food for a month, interacting with customers, understanding their need to get it incorporated in my menu. I discussed each and every interaction with my staff to understand all that they can do over the wishes of our patrons. We started with a few things, and then with valuable inputs from everyone connected to the name of Anaaj, expanded it to an expansive menu of over 50 items. Today, each and every dish is something I am proud of. All dishes are carefully recipe developed, keeping in mind the articulation of my kitchen staff. Today Anaaj family is 12 members strong. And all of these 12 members are finally proud of the fact that we are the only Indian Restaurant which serves curries with a layer of love instead, of a layer of artery clogging, demonic oil. We recently launched #AnaajCurries, and trust me if you had our Chicken Angara, you would know how a gravy can be made magical with minimal use of oil, but maximum use of flavour. I have things like Palak Khichri in my menu, directly inspired by my stay in Mumbai. I have Dum cooked Biryani in my menu, with a taste of Hyderabad in it. And I also experiment with the North Indian staple- parantha (flat Indian bread, stuffed and roasted) filling it up with unusual things like Sattu or Chicken or a mix of roasted veggies which I call- Sub Subz ka parantha. I have experimented with things like Dalia- broken wheat on the menu. I intend to get out many more such forgotten grains or recipes which are extremely healthy, but forgotten completely in the mad rush of this generational life.
|Chicken Chawala without a layer of floating oil!!|
I am developing another concept now. All I want to say is wait for it to hit the market as it would also be super interesting, and very healthy. This time, it would be a bit more celebratory and a little less mundane. At this stage all I want to say is that we are here, and we are here to stay! Cheers!!