The COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdown put a spanner in people’s plans across the country, especially related to travel. For 83-year-old Maiyya Thapa going back home to Darjeeling from Delhi was something that needed to be put on hold.
Every year Maiyya visits Delhi between the months of November to March to spend time with her daughters and their family. Come March, when summer would start building up in Delhi, she would pack her bag and head back to Darjeeling. This has been a practice for many years now. This year however March came and went, and Maiyya remained in Delhi.
What the pandemic did to Maiyya instead was to make her an accidental ‘Homepreneur’.
Instead of spending her time lamenting about the pandemic, she did what she knew best – cook. Specifically, momos (steamed dumpling).
Boju’s Kitchen, which means Grandma’s kitchen in Nepali, is the brainchild of Chitrangadha Gupta, Maiyya’s granddaughter. The venture, that began in July, has gone from catering to about six plates of momos a day to serving more than thirty plates of momos each day.
Run by three women, Maiyya, Arati [Maiyya’s daughter], and Chitrangada [Maiyya’s granddaughter], this venture came into being with an initial investment of Rs 2000 for procuring the raw material for the momos. Boju’s kitchen has since the beginning only reinvested the money earned into the business to make it grow.
“The venture has seen tremendous acceptance amongst its customers and has seen it’s monthly revenues double within two months of operations,” says Chitrangada.
Adversity leads to opportunity
A political science graduate from Delhi University, 23-year-old Chitrangada Gupta was working with a digital marketing agency in the capital when the pandemic struck and she lost her job. While she managed to get another job, it allowed her to work from home and that in turn gave her some extra time.
“Momos have been an integral part of our food culture and before the lockdown, I would often have friends over to have momos,” says Chitrangada. Once the lockdown was lifted, Chitrangada tells me about how her friends would come, stand outside her house, and gobble up the momos and leave. “It was a friend who sowed the idea of making this a business venture,” she explains.
“Don’t deprive us of the yummy momos,” is what Chitrangada’s friend had said to her.
Thus Began Boju’s Kitchen
Boju’s Kitchen officially came into being in July 2020 and the initial few orders were all from friends and family who knew about Maiyya’s cooking. Chitrangada says, “The first two weeks orders were coming in from just my own circle of friends. So everyone we were catering to were known to us. I eventually created an Instagram page, which has now become our tool to market Boju’s kitchen and also takes orders.”
Somewhere in August, the idea of home kitchen and home chefs started to pick up and that is when Boju’s kitchen also started seeing a greater reach and growth. “We have kept the menu fairly simple and that perhaps is our USP as well,” Chitrangada explains.
What’s on offer?
There are four categories that one can choose from – two vegetarian and two non-vegetarian options. While the non-vegetarians can order chicken and pork momos, the vegetarians get to choose between mixed vegetables and paneer momos.
“What we also added was steamed, pan-fried, deep-fried, and whole-wheat momos. We do notice that our signature momos are the steamed ones and pan-fried versions,” says Chitrangada. A plate of vegetarian momos, which consists of ten pieces, served along with spicy tomato chutney and peanut chutney is priced at Rs 150, while the chicken and pork momos cost at Rs 200.
In July, when Boju’s kitchen started operations, Chitrangada resorted to using plastic packaging material for the momos. “That wasn’t a decision that I was very happy with and when I was approached by a vendor in Rohtak who was manufacturing bamboo fiber packaging material, making the shift was a rather easy decision.”
A day in Boju’s Kitchen
Boju’s Kitchen delicacies.
“In terms of the prep work, everything is done on the day of the order, and nothing is pre-made,” says Chitrangada. The one thing that both her mother and grandmother are extremely secretive about is what goes into the momo. “In fact, even though Ravi bhaiya, our house help does some of the prep work, the actual assembling and making of the momo’s happens only with mom and nani in the kitchen,” says Chitrangada.
The day begins at 5.00 a.m. when Ravi bhaiya wakes up and enters the kitchen. He makes both the chutney’s, gets the dough ready, and preps the vegetables needed for the momo’s.
Between 9.30 and 10.00 a.m. is when the ladies enter the kitchen and begin their work. Deliveries begin from noon and go on until 8.00 p.m. “All our orders are made maximum an hour before they need to leave the kitchen for delivery,” explains Chitrangada.
While the menu until now only consisted of momos, the classic Ghoom pork curry, a speciality of the Ghoom region near Darjeeling has also just been introduced.
There are days when Boju feels tired and infact she took a break in between to just recharge and get back to work, says Chitrangada. Having spent her life caring for her five kids, cooking came rather naturally to her. According to her, one of her biggest achievements is having provided a good education to each of her children. Seeing them well settled is what gives her immense happiness.
When asked which momo Boju loves eating, Chitrangada says it’s the vegetarian momo accompanied by a bowl of hot a steaming soup.
Boju’s Kitchen delivers all across Delhi/NCR, and since there is a delivery charge being levied, there is no minimum amount one needs to place an order for. If you wish to place an order with Boju’s Kitchen, you can click here to access their Instagram account or WhatsApp them at 8882415464.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)