When she first started taking orders for Ismaili food last year, 35 year-old Neelam Mardhani could, at best, wrap 50 samosas in an hour. It required every ounce of her attention to make sure the imported maida strips didn’t tear. Even the tiniest split meant the samosa would unravel when it was being fried. It was a tiresome procedure and she almost wished the little meat-filled triangles weren’t as popular as they were. She can now make as many as 400 in less than 60 minutes – with her eyes shut. If only she had a telly in her one-room kitchen in Bandra like she did at home in Dahisar, she could have wrapped up her orders while watching her favourite show MasterChef India.
Mardhani along with Dilshad Hamirani and Gulbanu Bhanwadia are otherwise called the Food Factory, a trio who are known for serving up home-style Ismaili fare. Unlike Lucknowi and Hyderabadi cuisines, Ismaili or Khoja fare is relatively unknown outside its community. Like Mughlai food, it is rich and meat-centric but with discernible Gujarati influences since the Indian Ismaili community has its roots in Kutch and Saurashtra. Muthiya, for instance, is just like undhiyu except that the winter vegetables are slow-cooked with hunks of boneless mutton. It’s one of the Food Factory’s star dishes. Other traditional favourites include the Ismaili dhokla – less spongy and more spiced than the yellow dhokla – served with a feisty red Kashmiri chilli, raw garlic and fig chutney, shammi kebabs and our favourite, the Junagadhi kebab made of minced mutton (or beef) with mint, garlic and whole roasted dhaniya seeds.
The three women, who moved from Kutch to Mumbai about seven years ago, were kitchen trained by Mumtaz Patel and cookbook author Mona Bawani, who were their mentors at the Bandra jamatkhana, the Ismaili place of worship, as part of an initiative by the Ismaili Helping Society.
More at the source: :::: Time Out Mumbai – city guide and fortnightly listing magazine ::::.