Food in times of the Covid crisis
Many small food operations in Delhi-NCR, like Bhojan, Paanch Phoran, and House of Kitchens are offering simple, healthy meals at affordable prices to tide us through Covid times
In this terrible time of chaos and death, the heartening news is that there are many lending a helping hand to people in need. Groups have been formed of people donating blood, or looking for donors. People are organising food for those who are in no position to cook. And some small entrepreneurs are supplying home-cooked food – at nominal costs – to those looking for nutritious meals that are tasty and prepared and delivered with all precautionary measures in place.
I got a call from one such kitchen a few days ago. Called Bhojan, it has a subscription meal plan offering light meals and snacks, and a small combo meal package.
The food from Bhojan (bhojan.co.in) was healthy, as it had been cooked with few masalas, but was delicious nevertheless. I learnt it was started in 2020, and has four kitchens, three in Delhi-NCR and one in Bengaluru. The minimum subscription plan is of seven days (plans for a fortnight and a month are also available (WhatsApp 9311419770). People can check the food out before opting for a subscription.
The prices are affordable, something one can appreciate in these times when everyone’s pocket is hurting. The Chhota Bhojan breakfast or snack costs ₹45; combo meal of roti with sabzi or rice with gravy is priced at ₹49; a classic meal that includes rice, roti, vegetable, gravy and pickle is at ₹69; and a standard thhali has all this, but in somewhat larger quantities, and a salad, at ₹89.
For breakfast, they serve masala puri with bhaji, idli sambar, pao bhaji, poha, plain paratha with zeera aloo, and vegetable coleslaw sandwich. On Sunday, there are various types of parathas with curd. Lunch consists of mixed vegetables, kadhai style aloo mattar, petha masala, baingan masala, lauki channa. There is something called gravy, which includes Amritsari chholey, rajma, and kadhi pakora.
I enjoyed the food. The vegetable — muttar paneer — had been cooked with a light hand, but was good to eat. Likewise the chholey was deliciously light – in taste and colour. The aloo parathas were soft, filled with a light potato mash, and served with curd. The samosas were the way I like them – with a crisp crust that was not oily, and a scrumptious potato and pea filling.
Another interesting place is Paanch Phoran, which has decided to keep its gourmet fare (from Exotisch Cuisines) on the backburner and focus on the kind of food that the body demands in times of crises. Sonali Chatterjee (WhatsApp 9910474449), who runs this service, does various kinds of soups and other dishes. On Thursday, for instance, she had prepared a clear chicken soup and clear vegetable soup.
She offers a vegetarian meal of dal, sabzi, roti and rice (₹150); all this with chicken or fish (₹200) and a meal of chicken/ mushroom/ paneer/ tofu grilled, a soup or stew or broth, with bread/rice and sautéed vegetables (₹250). She has a delivery charge of ₹100.
There is also the House of Kitchens, which serves food across Delhi: East Delhi, GK2, Kalkaji, Panchsheel Park, West Delhi, Dwarka, Faridabad, Gurugram, Noida and Greater Noida. I rang the East Delhi number (9873939959). A representative answered the phone, and said that they had simple meals of rice, roti, sabzi, dal for ₹110, which they delivered to east Delhi neighbourhoods.
For many people, this is not quite business — but almost a mission. And for many others, it’s a life saver.
The writer is a seasoned food critic