Chef Mamon Mahanta sits as Sonal Saxena talks about Assamese cuisine

Come Home To Eat With India

A culinary experience with home cooked meals

Words and photographs: Ambica Gulati

Living in a land of diversity in all ways, each day brings a surprise as I experienced one evening at Noida’s plush Purvanchal Park with eatwithindia. Indian cuisine is vast, for each region, each home offers something unique. And capturing this uniqueness is the new kid on the block eatwithindia. Barely a year old, the USP of eatwithindia is that it breaks away from the traditional restaurant dining experience to a more homely and friendly one. The founders, husband-wife Shantanu Mahanta and Sonal Saxena, love food and even with busy lucrative careers decided to give rein to their passion.

While Mahanta runs an interior firm, Saxena has a technology company. However, eatwithindia is a way of experiencing India’s ‘athithi devo bhava’ claim. They have amateur and professional chefs on board and can arrange the entire experience, right from the venue to the help and even the cleaning of the premises later. Each event comprises starters, a lavish main course and customary dessert complemented with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. “These pop-ups are a way of getting to know the cuisines and culture with warmth and not with a commercial mindset,” says Saxena. “There is more personalised attention and everyone likes food made in home kitchens. The idea is to host around five to 30 people to keep the authenticity.”

The evening I experienced was an authentic Assamese dinner cooked by 70-year-old Chef Mamon (Gita) Mahanta. She has been cooking since the age of nine and did not think that she would ever do it commercially. But Shantanu Mahanta calls her the inspiration behind eatwithindia, as ‘nothing tasted better than food cooked by my mom’. Yes, you have got it by now, Chef Mamon is the founder’s mother!

p_20160910_222851Between bites of fish curry and joha rice, I came to know that Assam is divided into lower and upper regions with different cuisines. Fermentation is a common way of cooking in the hills and fish is almost a staple diet with the mighty Brahmaputra flowing through the state. Spices are not stir fried in this part of the country and a meal begins with khar, an indigenous soda, and ends with tengo, a sour dish. So what I liked best was the Masor Tenga and Machor Muri Ghonto. The fish was fresh, the spices light and the oil least. Though rice is the staple food, Mahanta had also included luchi, the little fried roti or poori. And this tasted good with a ridge gourd veggie dish and chole. I downed it all with a glass of red wine.

The meal ended with homemade coconut ladoos and kheer, made with khoya, milk and rice and decorated with pistachio nuts.

eatwithindia has plans to take on culinary tours and arrange dine-ins with the royalty. And is adding new chefs from across the country to its expanding portfolio. Launched in Delhi-NCR, the founders will now move into Mumbai. The future also includes merchandise such as spices.

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