6 Incredible Homechefs Cooking Up A Regional Food Storm In Delhi

India is a land with diverse people, cultures and of course, cuisines thanks to the vast populace this nation holds. Everybody knows just how vibrant the cuisines of India are, whether they be from the North, the West, the South, the East or the Northeast. And yet, ask the average Indian how many of these regional cuisines they are familiar with, and the answer is likely to be limited to those commercially or easily available. Changing all of that are food entrepreneurs who are starting small businesses from their homes to represent the regional cuisines they grew up with. 

In the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR), you are quite likely to find many such homechefs specialising in regional cuisines. A true melting pot, Delhi is not only home to settlers from across the nation and the world, but also packed with many with a food entrepreneurial bent of mind who took the idea of homecooked meals from their region of origin and turned it into a thriving business that offers both delicious food and in-depth knowledge about the regional cuisines of India. 

Slurrp caught up with six such food entrepreneurs and homechefs in Delhi NCR—all women, coincidentally—who are cooking up quite a regional Indian food storm in the national capital. Here is everything they had to say about their journeys, food philosophy and future plans. 

Abhilasha Jain, Marwadi Cuisine 

Coming from a Jain Marwadi family, business was always in her blood, says Abhilasha Jain, the woman behind the popular food venture, Marwadi Khana. After moving to Gurgaon, she realised that Marwadi vegetarian food wasn’t easily available in the city, and that triggered the birth of her business. “It was in 2014 that I started Marwadi Khana from my home kitchen and now I have my cloud kitchen,” she explains, adding that it all started when she created a social media page and started posting about her food.   

For Jain, food from the Mewar region of Rajasthan is at the centre of her menus. “People enjoy our Dal Bati Churma, Kadi Kachori, Sangri je kofta, halwas and yes, our Moti Boondi laddus,” she says. For the future, her goal is simple. “I want to feed as many people I can our regional, soul satisfying food,and I want to take our traditional Mithais to all over the globe. That’s what I’m working on now!” 

Rekha Raghavan, Kerala Cuisine 

For Raghavan, being a chef was a passion she had to put on the backburner, and after 20 years of working in the corporate sector, she finally started Magic With Spices in 2018. “My roots are from Kerala and I do Kerala and Coastal Cuisine,” she explains. “I follow my Nani's recipes and try to bring the lost recipes for people to relish. I specialise in Kerala Sadhya, which is a traditional vegetarian meal consisting 20+ dishes. I have collaborated with various hotels in Delhi NCR to serve Onam Sadhya and it has always been a sold-out event.” 

This apart, Raghavan has also done Sadhya feasts for weddings, the most prominent of which was that of actors Rajkumar Rao and Patralekha held at the Oberoi Sukhvilas, Chandigarh in 2021. “Apart from my Sadhya, clients relish my non-vegetarian preparations like Mutton Pepper fry, Chicken 65, Malabar biryani, etc. Cooking is not a business for me, rather a passion to showcase my food.” 

Samita Haldar, East Bengali Cuisine 

Bengali cuisine may be popular and commercially available across the national capital, but what Samita Haldar does, isn’t. “I mostly do East Bengal cuisine,” she explains. “I wanted people to understand that Bengali cuisine is not just about kosha mangsho and luchi. We have so many vegetarian dishes and now, I share them with people in the form of some traditional yet rare dishes like kochur loti, Shapla, stuffed kankrol etc. People mostly like my vegetarian dishes which are difficult to make at home nowadays, like mankachu, thor, loti, etc. My bhortas and chingri jhuro are always liked by clients.” 

Like many fod entrepreneurs across India, Haldar’s venture was a lockdown baby. “I used to post food recipes in food groups earlier and some of my friends suggested that why should I not teach them to kids and young people? Then I started to teach online cooking classes with five students; four years later, I have 30-40 students whom I teach cooking from scratch—and this is done along with my meal delivery and pop-ups.” 

Shehnaz Siddiqui, Bhopali Cuisine 

For Shehnaz Siddiqui, starting her own venture was a natural progression after working in the food and beverage industry for 20 years with a very different portfolio. “The Taste of Bhopal, a venture that I started called Begum's Legacy, by Shehnaz Siddiqui, evolved and began during the pandemic,” she explains. “I'm from Bhopal and we have a culinary culture of excellent food and delicate flavors that are uncommon and distinctive, something we've passed down from generation to generation.”  

When she moved to Delhi from Dubai, Siddiqui realised that people have very little idea about Bhopali cuisine, and that became the centre of her venture. “My entire menu is authentic and from Bhopal, and represent my Khandani tastes just like my mother and grandmother used to prepare it,” she explains. One of her bestsellers if the Bhopali Qorma, which takes four-six hours to prepare. “My frequent customers enjoy both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes equally, including Bhopali yakhni pulo, Afsana e keema, Bhopali bharma, Bhopali dahiwada, etc.” 

Nicole Juneja, Tibetan Cuisine 

Brought up in Delhi, Nicole Juneja says that her mother, who hails from Bara Mangwa in the Darjeeling district, was the biggest inspiration behind her Delhi-based food venture, MOOD. “We had always wanted to start a small business in the food space, but a restaurant seemed like a big undertaking,” she says. “So, we decided to start smaller. The idea of a momo food truck slowly turned into an Instagram-led take-away service, offering home cooked meals in small batches in 2018.” 

Aunty Kusuma, her mother, is still a part of the venture and in fact does all the cooking while Juneja herself manages the business side of things. “The meals we offer are basically her 'ghar ko khana',” she explains. “The local cuisine that side is influenced by its cultural diversity, which is why you'll find a mix of Nepalese, Tibetan, Bhutanese and Lepcha food items and flavors.” Naturally, momos are her biggest sellers, thanks to the authentic flavours she brings to the simple dish—but her pork belly meals with Aunty Kusuma’s Aloo Ko Achaar is a close second. 

Surabhi Bhandari, Rajasthani Cuisine 

Coming from a joint family in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Surabhi Bhandari says “mehmaan nawaazi” runs in her blood. “I always wanted to carry this legacy of serving food with equal love and warmth forward,” the woman behind Delhi’s 365 Kitchen says. “I started taking orders initially with friends and through word of mouth, friends of friends. Taking this concept further, I started mu Marwadi pop-ups which I host every month at my home. The food is local, seasonal, made with love and served with warmth and stories of my home.”  

As for the dishes she presents, Bhandari says the focus is to bring back rare dishes as well as the popular ones. “When it comes to Rajasthani food, people mostly just know about dal baati churma , gatte ki sabji or ker Sangri,” she says. “I want to tell them that Rajasthani food is so much more and beyond this. Last year, I did a Marwadi pop-up at Shangri La, Delhi. It was without onion garlic and for four days and there wasn’t any dal baati churma on the menu! There were unheard marwadi dishes like dhaniya vadi ki sabji, papad methi, raab , karba etc. People love that authenticity and lost recipes that you would only find in traditional homes.”