What’s Cooking, Amma?

 A SARWAR BORAH narrates the journey to the opening of Shabnam’s Kitchen, the first ever Assamese Muslim culinary eatery in Delhi

Rezala (Assamese Muslim Cuisine)
Rezala (Assamese Muslim Cuisine)

The clock struck 8 o’ clock in the morning and she is way ahead with her daily chores — preparing breakfast, lunch for her son and simultaneously instructing the domestic help. This was what my Amma (Shabnam Borah) did as a 27-year- old homemaker in 1990, and after 25 years she was doing the same with a few changes in her life. In 25 years she had shifted to Delhi along with my father to be with their only son that is me, and she lovingly continued to prepare my lunch, just that now I was taking it to my office, and it was a big hit among my office folks. Even as a child, I remember, whenever Abba, brought a delicacy from the restaurant, Amma, would slowly bite into her morsel, trying to assume the ingredients that has gone into the dish whereas my Abba and me would quickly finish of our share. She was also a home economics student and deep inside her heart, she always had the desire to be associated with food, beyond her home kitchen.

I am not sure from whom had my Amma inherited her culinary genes, but I for sure know the reason for my craving for good food. Eventually, my love for food also became my source of livelihood as I took to food writing.  My foray into the culinary world, opened a whole lot of dining options, from home kitchens and pop ups to food festivals and concept restaurants.  I realised that without making much investments, we could launch our brand in the culinary business, and after some years of research, we felt it was the right time to launch a home kitchen and we couldn’t think of a better name than calling it after my mother – Shabnam’s Kitchen.

On January 10 this year, we did our first pop-up that also marked the launch of Shabnam’s Kitchen. We felt the time is right to introduce Assamese Muslim cuisine to the Delhi palate, which is opening up to different cuisines from international to sub regional flavours. Talking of regional flavours, in recent times we have seen the Delhi palate accept flavours such as Kerala Syrian Christian, Bihari, Naga and Parsi cuisines with open arms. The response was good as a chef from a reputed hotel chain mentioned that he found the cuisine palatable. We had served Korma Pulao, Parantha, Rezala, Mutton Stew, Masor Korma, Shami Kebab, along with vegetarian fares such as Laai Xaak aru Kosu Xoriyoh di Khar (Rai herbs, Colocasia roots and Mustard Alkaline), Kolful aru Mosur Dailor Bor, Kolfulor Bhaji, Jolfair Mitha Achar (Ceylon Olive pickle), Khorisa di Bhoot Jolokiar Achar (Bhot Jolokia pickle made of fermented bamboo shoot) and Koni Saulor Payokh.

Apart from the over whelming response to our food, I was amazed to see a different side of my Amma during the festival. She took over the professional kitchen as fish takes to water; she was in complete ease with the whole set-up, instructing the chefs, and showing them the cooking techniques to ensure that the food tastes authentic.

In the time to come Shabnam’s Kitchen intends to do pop-ups on Assamese Muslim Cuisine at regular intervals at cultural centres, fine-dining restaurants and hotels. We are also exploring the option of paid dining at home for small groups, where other than serving sumptuous Assamese Muslim food, we can also talk about out culinary traditions and the Assamese Muslim history.