Experimenting with bacon to using ‘idli’ as Trojan horse: Why we are back to the old normal
An en masse return to the home kitchen inspired the rise of quirky condiments and quality ingredients. As it turns out, bacon does make things better
It looks like the new normal is going to be the old normal after all. And thank goodness for that.
While we have learnt valuable, if tough, lessons from 2020, and must continue to remain vigilant, it is encouraging to see the cautious revival of our pre-COVID lives.
Now, however, we luxuriate in the simple things — a well-stocked grocery store, a morning run and walking into a café, hugged by the fragrance of espresso, again.
After many months at the stove (and sink), even quick restaurant meals feel like a celebration. Though all that home cooking improved our skills, it also taught us the value of quality ingredients and clever condiments.
Nomad Food Project
Fiery with green pounded chillies, fragrant with garlic and buttery with bacon, Nomad’s bacon thecha is a cheeky, delicious take on the traditional Maharashtrian condiment.
“I came across mutton thecha — people eat it like chakna with beer, with garlic and green chillies,” says Aditya Rai, explaining how their best seller was conceived. The foundations were laid a few years ago when Aditya and his business partner, Advaith Inamke, were studying at Institute of Hotel Management (IHM) in Mumbai. “This was a research project. We started making savoury jams, because there was nothing like that in the market then. We wanted a fresh take,” says Aditya.
The Pune-based project, now has an intriguing menu which pivots on bacon from a local farmer: bacon bourbon relish, bacon stout marmalade and even a jar of smoky bacon fat for people on Keto diets. There are also savoury jams, which include mango-chilli, onion-garlic and a deeply flavourful plum and red wine jam, laced with chilli seeds, rosemary and pepper.
“We cook in small batches, five days a week,” says Aditya, adding that in the beginning they were “roaming around, doing flea markets” Nomad-style, till the 2020 home cooking surge triggered orders from across the country. With 95% of the orders online, (largely fuelled by Instagram), they have started doing trendy limited edition collaboration jams, including a small batch of strawberry and gin with Stranger & Sons.
Delighted with the response from South India (“South is full of crazy bacon lovers!”), Nomad plans to release a bacon podi. “We fry in its own fat, then grind with podi elements,” says Aditya adding, “Then, just like you put ghee on a dosa, you can top it with our podi.” And after that? “Bacon chocolate pie.”
An idli is an unexpected Trojan horse. Nevertheless, it is Better Batter’s weapon of choice.
In a spirited attempt to convince people about the many virtues of heritage rice, the start up, in association with Spirit of the Earth, is making idli, dosa and adai batters with traditional, organic, nutritious varieties of rice. They are also turning idlis pink, orange and green with beetroot, carrots and spinach.
Deepa Ramachandran, who started Nutrigentle, the parent company, with her son says they have been looking for ways to promote food “that is gentle on the environment and our bodies”. The dosa batters are made with Thooyamalli and red Mapillai Champa. The team also makes a hearty moringa-speckled adai batter, incorporating Arcot Kichili Champa along with unpolished urad, channa, toor and moong dals.
“It is a great way to backward integrate with the rice,” says Deepa, explaining how she got interested in heritage rice at home. “There is so much untapped potential. It’s nutritious and we find that children are loving the red rice varieties,” she says.
Ground at home, the batter is made fresh to order twice a week. Given the enthusiastic response, Deepa has recently moved out of her home kitchen and set up a central kitchen so she can scale up operations.
This weekly column tracks the city’s shifting culinary landscape. Heard of a new food venture? Tell me: email@example.com