This Slow Food Restaurant in Ranchi Serves Authentic Tribal Food
Image Credit: Aruna Tirkey, the founder and owner of Ajam Emba

In our generation, experimenting with food translates into trying out food from different parts of the world. Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Mexican, Turkish – there are several cuisines from all across that are on our bucket list to try out. While trying out new food items is in no way wrong, in catching up with what we see on food blogs on social media, we have forgotten what our grandparents used to cook in our kitchens. We know what a Burmese dish tastes like but we hardly recall the names of all those saag our grandma used to prepare for us. In a scenario like this, Aruna Tirkey decided to open a slow food restaurant in the capital of Jharkhand that only serves indigenous food items prepared by locally produced ingredients.

Ajam Emba is a one of its kind, trailblazing restaurant that was opened in Ranchi by a rural development professional and food entrepreneur Aruna Tirkey. The name of the place Ajam Emba means great taste in the Kudukh language. And indeed, the local Adivasi food served here has managed to become a quick favourite of the foodies of the city. Talking about her decision to open Ajam Emba, leaving behind a successful career in rural development and advocacy spanning over 15 years, Aruna says that it was a first prize at a cooking competition that ignited her passion. “Winning that competition by cooking an indigenous dish was the turning point for me. I decided that I can work in this field to give back to my community. Through Ajam Emba, we promote sustainable livelihood, healthy food and involve the women of the community in the entire process. My ultimate aim is the revival of the local cuisine”.

Ajam Emba promotes sustainable lifestyle and has a major involvement of women

The food that is served at Ajam Emba is totally derived from the authentic style of cooking in Adivasi communities. From local produce to utensils to serving the food in pattals, the restaurant is a blissful reminder of the simplistic ways to cook, the rustic taste of tribal food and the sheer joy that cooking and eating food can bring us. The focus, Aruna says, is on the diverse seasonal produce that the local cuisine has. The most popular dishes at her restaurant are seasonal vegetables, flowers and pulses that people love to enjoy. There is also a huge demand for red rice, marua and gondli, which used to be a regular part of a normal tribal meal but got lost somewhere in the age of processed food. “My personal favourite is red rice and desi arhar ki dal along with seasonal veggies, desi kitchen and chutney”, says Aruna while mentioning how important it is that the communities as well as the government recognize the seasonal diversification of the tribal food, beyond fairly known items like rugda and khurki.

Aruna Tirkey talks about the seasonal diversity of forest obtained food

As a young entrepreneur, Aruna has seen unprecedented success through Ajam Emba. It is one of those places that has transformed the food scene in Ranchi and made everyone stand up and notice it. A brave effort that has culminated into a true-blue success story, Aruna says that she started the venture with a sum of five thousand only. She worked her way through the challenges and now has advice for entrepreneurs like her. “For anybody who wants to set up a venture like this, you need to know the community well and interact with people. Risk taking and commitment to the cause will determine how far you go. You need to have expertise in the field, do your research and fully commit to the cause of the community. Without knowledge and a high level of commitment, an ambitious venture like Ajam Emba would never be successful”, explains Aruna. She visits the haats and markets in rural Jharkhand regularly and communicates with the people. She has whole-heartedly accepted the people that she works for and works with; and in return, her people have put their faith in her.

The success of Aruna Tirkey and her restaurant tells us that there are still enough takers of our local cuisine. We need to find ways to let people know about the heritage we carry on our plates, the magic that our indigenous kitchens hold and the comfort that these dishes provide.