Express News Service
Food remains a key factor in strengthening communities. However, families can have different ways of preparing the same dish – an extra 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 ventures in Delhi that provide entrepreneurial opportunities to local women by borrowing from generations of family recipes belonging to a particular community – in different states – to create unique dishes.
A tasteful endeavor
In an effort to revive generation-old recipes of the women of a low-income migrant settlement in East Delhi’s Mandawali, Khwab launched Welfare Trust – a Vinod Nagar-based humanitarian organization dedicated to women’s empowerment and young people – 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 create Ambiya came about in 2020 – when the Trust identified a group of women from the community and asked them to give examples of a recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation. The samples contain snacks – various namkeen, chivda and papad – or pickles. Lata (35) from Uttarakhand, a member of Ambiya, says she submitted 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 I grew up eating could be part of a business,” she says. By borrowing the ingredient or cooking method from different recipes of the same dish, the team created an entirely new dish as part of Ambiya’s menu.
While Instagram is the platform they sell their food on (@ambiyafoods), Ambiya also participates in pop-up sales in the city. Apart from snacks like masala nimki and gur para, they have also incorporated dishes like litti chokha, dal pakode, kheer, malpua, etc.
Ambiya’s project leader, Annapurna Dasgupta, shares: “The malpua is a crossover learning process between the women from Uttarakhand, UP and Bihar.”
Add confidence to taste
Zaika-e-Nizamuddin (ZeN), a self-help group from Nizamuddin Basti, was initiated in 2012 by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) as part of the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative. The 11 women of ZeN – they started preparing healthy snacks – introduced a catering company in 2015. The food, old family recipes shared by these women includes Mughlai dishes like shammi kebab, biryani, etc. time, become iconic for Nizamuddin Basti.
To serve a wider audience, the team has standardized their dishes. “The preparation varies per family; some like spicier than others. The food we all used to make was different, but now we have put together a special menu,” says Noorjahan (28), a chef who joined the team in 2015. Zen came to work. †
With such an approach, the company – selling through food aggregators and through a website (nizamuddinrenewal.org) – has won about 400 loyal customers. Noorjahan concludes: “Now we are a confident, self-sufficient group.”