Take Bunny Chow and Caribbean Roti for example, South African and Caribbean specialities, respectively, available at MeSoHappi, and as the team points out, they “have their roots connected to the Indian Community.” So while Indian roots might have led to Bunny Chow, which is basically curry served in a hollowed-out bread bowl, becoming popular in the city. This apparent Indian connection is perhaps the reason why Ananya Banerjee’s Ethiopian food pop-ups are tremendously popular. “I lived in an area of Washington that had the largest population of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia… and I just fell in love with their food! There are some similarities too between Ethiopians and Indian food, like the use of lentils and spices” says Banerjee who is also a cookbook author and hosts pop-ups at home for German and even Italian food. “But it’s never the stuff you will find in restaurants,” she tells us.
But working with new flavours has its own challenges. Banerjee had to create her own flour mix for Injera, a fluffy pancake that is integral to Ethiopian food. “There’s no teff in India, so I developed my own recipe using cornmeal.” It’s a sentiment that Sylvester Wongchuk of Sernya Tibetan Kitchen echoes too. “We bring a lot of our sauces and dallay chilli from Kolkata and Sikkim. We don’t add any MSG or chemicals to our food. To date, Momos and Thukpa are the first things people think of when you talk of Tibetan food, but once they see our menu, they are open to trying new dishes like Yumsho Jasha (smoked chicken pancakes) and Yam Mein (Soft steamed noodles with steamed fishballs),” he says.
Gitika Saikia, who hails from Assam, has been running her pop-ups at home and in cooking studios in the city, started out when she heard people say pretty much the same things about food from the North East. “‘Oh, Assamese food, that’s similar to Bengali food!’ ‘You guys eat everything that crawls!’ and ‘Momos’, this is all I would hear people talk about food from the North East, so that’s what made me want to start pop-ups,” she tells us. Perhaps the most well known face of the home chef circuit, she’s now even collaborated with APB Cook Studio to host an all-vegetarian pop-up at Soam. “There will be fiddlehead ferns, tiny baby potatoes and colocasia leaves – all of which I source from Assam,” she smiles.
Another new entrant on the ‘exotic’ food scene in the city is Michelin-starred Chef Atul Kochhar’s ‘Lima’ that serves Peruvian food — the first of its kind in Mumbai. If you’re still hung up on pastas and good ol’ Chinese food, we’re pretty sure we’ve done good job of convincing you to try something unique, the next time you have to dine out!