Dec 27, 2018 | 6 Mins
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Whenever we go for tastings, people often tell us, "You are so lucky that you get to eat such delicious food all the time!" While we do feel extremely humbled about these amazing families inviting us to enjoy their cuisine, there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes!
To begin with, the word 'Tasting' to us is a misnomer. A 'Tasting' session is much more than just that. Consider it as the Dress Rehearsal before the Main Show takes place. We visit a home chef’s residence, get to know them and their stories, click pictures of the food and enjoy the spread that has been prepared. A 'Tasting’ or a trial meal helps the team at visualize how an experience will unfold. We won’t deny - tastings are fun. We get to meet new people and interacting with them leads to new discoveries about India and its myriad cuisines. But before all that takes place, there is a constant battle in the office of who gets to go for tastings (Reshma and I generally win :)).
Since it is a meal experience for us as well, we tend to put ourselves in a diner’s shoes to see what works and what does not. We need to make note of how easily accessible is the home and accordingly mention clear directions so that our diners can reach the place easily. Once we reach the location and introduce ourselves to the home chef and his/her family, it is a matter of taking them through the entire process before we start clicking pictures of the food.
Getting the perfect shot is crucial
Last week, Reshma and I had the opportunity of visiting home chef Shagufta’s home in Andheri West, Mumbai. Her cuisine from the North Karnataka region, is the first of its kind on and we were quite excited to taste the food. For food to look good, we require good cameras. With two DSLRs in tow (with batteries charged to 100% and ample storage on our memory cards), we were all set to capture some drool-worthy pictures. None of us are professional photographers but we’ve learnt over the last few years on how to click the right kind of food images that hopefully clicks with our audience as well.
While we styled and clicked pictures of the food, Shagufta talked us through each dish and its preparation. Her enthusiasm about the entire process was palpable and she even helped us style the pictures with a variety of local spices and dishes that made the food look so appetizing. Clicking pictures and shooting videos is time-consuming but it’s always worth it if the results turn out to be great. Once we are content with whatever we have captured, it’s time to enjoy the food. Shagufta had prepared a variety of dishes ranging from Amma’s Chicken Curry (prepared with her grandmother’s recipe) to the Byadgi Fish Curry (flavoured with local red chillies, Byadgi chillies, found in North Karnataka), everything placed on a banana leaf. It’s generally at the dining table where we learn how the meal is traditionally served and enjoyed. While Reshma went back for second helpings of the Prawns Kundapur (succulent Prawns marinated and cooked in Kundapur masala, named after the town Kundapur in North Karnataka), I loved the Amma’s Chicken Curry and Rice.
Home chef Shagufta helping us out with ingredients
What also really peaked our interest about the entire experience was Shagufta’s fascinating background. Having a Saraswat Brahmin mother and a Muslim father, both originally from Haveri, a town in North Karnataka, Shagufta grew up learning a lot about different cooking styles and flavours. What’s also interesting is that we learnt a lot more about the North Karnataka from her. Certain parts of North Karnataka were originally part of Maharashtra while others were a part of modern day Hyderabad. Haveri is one such town that is situated in North Karnataka and close to the Maharashtra border. The food in this region are a combination of Konkan and Kannadiga flavours and hence, seafood becomes a part of the regional cuisine. I have had my fair of seafood meals but this was very different from all them. The use of Byadgi chillies, Kundapur masala and local tamarinds of Haveri, provided unique flavours to the entire spread.
The variety of spices that makes the regional food of North Karnataka so unique
The entire meal was a good balance between seafood and meat (supplemented by vegetarian accompaniments) and the conversations flowed naturally between us, Shagufta and her husband! She also mentioned an interesting incident from her childhood days where, during the summer holidays, all kids used to jump into a nearby pond and the men used to catch the fish in lungis (kind of a sarong). These would then be taken home, marinated in homemade masalas and enjoyed with the entire family. Now these are the kind of stories we don’t get to hear everyday!
Home chef Shagufta's North Karnataka spread. To know more about her meal experience in Andheri West, Mumbai click here
I will let in you in on a secret though - good food and great conversations like these always puts us in a stupor! And now you know what goes on in an tasting :)