When a kid was staring at the food being cooked in a mud stove in her grandmother’s kitchen, she didn’t know that one day, she would actually make a career out of it. That’s what happened with Homechef and Slurrp Community member, Chandrima Sarkar. The food blogger started her cooking journey at a young age by observing food being cooked in her home kitchen and went on to imitate the techniques in her interesting recipes today. 

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The Bengali chef, who has been creating food videos since 2012, has won many accolades and awards for her commendable work. Being a true Bong foodie, @notoutofthebox’s founder, Chandrima engages in an exclusive chat with us to relive her memories of traditional Bengali food and her favourite fish dish that she devours to date. Excerpts.  

Q1. When did you start cooking? Who taught you how to cook?

I think my interest in cooking began from a tender age. I was this curious child, who would love to watch dishes getting cooked in a traditional Bengali kitchen. The cooking steps seemed like magic happening in front of my eyes and added much fuel to my childhood imagination. I saw (and I still remember) food getting cooked on a big mud stove over a charcoal fire in my grandma’s kitchen. This was before the gas stovetop came into play. I started hands-on cooking when I was in 5th standard, under mom’s guidance. She taught me all the basic recipes, mostly staple foods, the kind we eat every day at home, nothing fancy. 

Q2. What do you like about the Slurrp Community? 

I feel that Slurrp is a great learning and knowledge-sharing interactive platform for food lovers. What better than the community members sharing their food experiences in every form with each other. The way it’s growing it will soon become a favourite of every food enthusiast in India. 

Source: Shutterstock

Q3. What does cooking mean to you? 

Cooking is one of the outlets of my creative expression. It’s a medium through which I share my learnings with people, a passion that I have been nourishing for so long that it has become the main objective of my work. It is always a joy to share my home-cooked food recipes with the online readers of my blog, called Not Out of the Box, and on social media channels. 

Q4. What do you think you cook the best? 

It’s a difficult question to answer, as I love to cook and bake so many different things, and they usually turn out good. But yes, the food I grew up eating is Bengali food, and I feel most satisfied when I cook anything Bengali. 

Q5. Amid all the different types of things you cook, which one is your favourite and why? 

It’s Paturi - a traditional Bengali dish, which is usually cooked with different ingredients (such as lentil, fresh cottage cheese/chana, fish, and prawns, etc.), one at a time, in a banana leaf parcel. Here the roasted leaf imparts an unmatchable flavour to the ingredients, resulting in a finger-licking-good preparation that tastes great with steamed rice. 

Source: Shutterstock

Q6. Since you’re a Bengali, do you have a favourite fish dish? Is there a story behind it? 

There are many favourites, not one. But there is one fish recipe that I developed years ago, and it is still a popular recipe on my blog. It’s Dhone Kasundi Mach/Coriander Kasundi Fish, a flavourful fish preparation that has a tantalising aroma and taste which comes from the use of fresh coriander leaves, tender coriander seeds, and Bengal’s popular mustard sauce Kasundi. When I was developing this recipe I just played with the ingredients, I wanted to see how they would complement each other. The ingredients blended beautifully and tasted much more delicious in a fish dish.  

Q7. If left stranded on an island for a week, what is the one dish that will help you survive? 

I think bread and butter. 

Q8. Do you have a signature style of cooking? How did that evolve? 

Apart from the usage of common Indian ingredients in many dishes, and some usual cooking techniques, my approach stays different depending on the nature of the dish. So, I don’t think I have a signature style of cooking. 

Q9. How do you go about shooting and styling food for your Instagram feed? 

It’s the same process that I follow when I shoot for brands to create recipes for them or when I shoot for my blog or YouTube channel. Every food has a nature and story or theme to them, so I choose my props accordingly. I use natural light mostly and artificial lights if I’m shooting for a video. For example, if I am shooting a samosa, which is street food, I’ll choose rustic backgrounds and props that can evoke the memories of the viewers related to samosa.