By:Â Saira Malhotra
Last week, Shivani Vora of the New York Times, India Ink, let us in on a very handy little community secret – Home cooked Indian food cooked in someone else’s home, but served at your dinner table. There are many Indian professionals living in New York City with a craving for home cooked Indian food. Their biggest challenge is that they are devoid of time and most Indian meals can require a labor of love. Curries that reflect layered cooking of pan roasted spices, caramelized onions, braised meats, gently simmered lentils and home-made fluffy chappattis are addictive and certainly yield the returns on the time that has gone in to preparing them.
Conflicted with the lack of time, but unwilling to compromise on their wholesome and balanced Indian meal, many families have found a loophole in the system: Dial-a-Homecook. Many families seek the sources of ‘Bhen’s’ (a term of endearment for aunt), with whom they place an order for their evening meal or their meal for the whole week. These ‘home chefs’ are typically homemakers that are happy to cook for people for a small fee. Many clients consider this as a better alternative to ordering in as it is more economical, they have access to more authentic dishes than ordering from a restaurant, and the dishes are custom to ones preferences, such as low fat or whole wheat.
If the Bhen is a good cook, then let the force be with her as her reputation will spread like wildfire and she will be cooking diverse dishes for several families a day. If you are region specific, you can enlist the services of a Bhen from that region. Punjabi’s traditionally eat spicy and richer curries whereas people from the South of India enjoy lighter daals (lentils) or dishes that don’t exist in other parts of India. The last thing you need to worry about is where to find someone to cook your cultural cuisines as there is a whole database of information on these people known as ‘the community’.
This flexible set up allows for tailored services. Planning to throw a dinner party? Why call a caterer when a more than capable Bhen can do it for you at a fraction of the cost? Bhens are willing to make arrangements that suit your needs. They are happy to cook in your home if you like to use specific ingredients and they are very good about leaving your kitchen the way they find it. They will also cook from their home and transport the medley of dishes in neat parcels to your house and if you need some specialty grocery items, they will carry that along to without charging for the extra leg work.
What’s the bottom line? These ladies charge anywhere from 50-100 dollars a week. But what they provide is more than just a meal. They provide you with a sense of reassurance that no matter how uncertain your day, the one thing you can count on is a healthy and home-cooked meal awaiting your presence.
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