Women in the 21st century when they quietly but very effectively steer a movement like Shaheen Bagh that spreads throughout the country, it is evident that modern-day Durgas are more than just homemakers.
They too have the right and tenacity to walk shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts building empires of note. In a short span of time Anuradha Baqaya Chak has slowly but surely mapped the heart and mind of the Kashmiri cuisine lover in the city of Nawabs by taking baby steps in satiating tastebuds of the foodies of Awadh.
Starting from local food festivals, Anuradha has made it a point to reach the average households. She has through ethical means created her unique customer base where gatherings and parties can now bank on her for some really unique food that has its genesis in the Kashmir valley.
Having faced the wrath of the Kashmiri Pandit exodus, Anuradha was among a wide gamut of people who made Lucknow a home away from home, but the heart always lay in her home ground. As time progressed she found meaning in staying connected with her roots through the food that she felt was the last solid link.
Daughter to a mother who hailed from a respected business family of Kanpur and a father who was a ‘zamindar’, Anuradha is married to a senior journalist in Lucknow. After picking up the first lessons in cooking from the mother-in-law, a great cook herself, she gradually worked her way to a certain degree of proficiency.
She made it a point to master delicacies like ‘rista’, ‘goshtaba’, ‘roghan josh’ among a multitude of Kashmiri offerings.
Part of the growing tribe of Kashmiris who have contributed immensely to Lucknow’s composite culture, Anuradha speaks to us exclusively to elaborate on the germination of an idea named Pamposh. The News Agency caught up with her to take a peek into her world of cooking.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m from a services family and take great pride in the fact that my father has successfully been part of the three wars after Independence. I have studied in Educational institutions across the length and breadth of the country.
How did you zero down on the idea of trying a supremely unique food startup?
Being a Kashmiri Pandit myself I have grown up eating the food that now I’m opening up for the others. My maternal grandfather successfully ran two hotels serving Kashmiri cuisine in Kanpur and Prayagraj by the name of Hotel dè Kashmir and Nanking respectively. He was the pioneer in it here in the planes.
Besides the numerous recipes I inherited from the Zamindari family of the Chaks being part of it after matrimony.
In a quick SWOT analysis, where do you think the challenges lie in a city like Lucknow?
Kashmiri food is loved by all. You have to just try it once and you will be converted forever. The only point in question is that its recipes use expensive ingredients and therefore are priced a bit higher.
Pamposh typifies the lotus in the literal sense. When you use the term to describe your food startup where does the term fit in? Or to put it simply, what got you to pick the term?
The first picture that comes to mind when you think of Kashmir is the Dal Lake with Shikaras and the innumerable Lotus flowers floating on the waters . The stem of these lotus is used in Kashmiri vegetarian cuisine. Like Nadroo Yakhni to name one. The word Pamposh is also given to a Kashmiri colony near GK1 in New Delhi. So it immediately connects one with Kashmir.
Bringing Kashmiri cuisine to the average household is a novel idea, why do you think it can be challenging when in the planes, especially how easily do you get the herbs?
Some of the herbs are locally procured others I source from INA market in New Delhi . Lucknow has a large population which has visited either Visited Kashmir or has stayed there. They know and love the dishes I prepare as I recreate that for them her close to their homes.
From public outings to home deliveries you have slowly but surely started making the right noises? Do you think, in a Mughlai zone, Kashmiri food has quite a few takers, if yes how?
There is a huge and unending variety of permutations and combinations in dishes both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Each of which has a unique flavour. The fact that spices used in making these make the dish light to eat and easy to digest and the garam masalas keep you warm as the name suggests. So it’s great food in cold weather.
What do you specialize in? I hear a lot about the Waazwaan, would you elaborate on what makes the experience unique for someone not so in tune with Kashmiri food? A unique KP delicacy, how has the local populace taken to this food when served in local parties and ceremonies of note.
Each dish I prepare with the care and delicate balance to suit the Awadhi palate. Therefore to say which dish is my favourite is difficult. It is for the connoisseur to decide what they like the most. And that may vary from one person to the other. As for Waazwaan it’s a feast comprising of goshtaba, Rista, Rogan Josh, fish, kabargah and or a couple of vegetables
Would I be correct to say that a unique combination of rice, yoghurt and meat makes up some of the Kashmiri delicacies?
A Kashmiri meal if you may say so. Most of the meat, chicken , fish and vegetarian foods with gravy make use of curd and spices cooked mostly in mustard oil to give it a unique texture and flavour.
A rather spooky name goes like Qabargah, how do you define it? Is it the typical RL Stine like food on a haunted platter?
Kabargah was actually “Kamar ka” which got mispronounced so rather than correcting it’s the term that stuck on. They are basically ribs (soft bone) which are boiled in equal quantity of milk with some herbs and then deep-fried in a batter. A starter most sought after mostly in wedding ceremonies and most definitely in the garasoon lunch that follows the day after the wedding .mostly you would be lucky to get a piece of it as it easily gets over .owing to the fact that there are limited ribs on Kamar.
Your biggest rival in the Kashmiri food scene in the city if any?
I would love to have competition though I wud not call it rivals. This would most certainly bring out the better or even the best in me.
Do you also teach cooking these delicacies to people, since you have a background in academics?
Yes, I’ve been a Principal in an Intercollege. Certainly I have contemplated teaching these wonderful dishes to those who would like to learn.
What made you switch from the role as an educator to a foodpreneur?
My passion for food even while I was an educator. The fact that every party hosted by me always had 100% attendance mostly credits to the food prompted me . The food festivals where I participated also helped me a lot in analysing the potential of this food in Lucknow.
Any message for those into entering the entrepreneurial ring?
Do your best do it well and do it consistently against all odds . As the “Bhagwat Gita” says कर्म किये जा फल की इच्छा ना कर हे इन्सान ।