From ‘pazham pori’ to Goan prawn curry, these well-loved Chennai brands launch cloud kitchens that serve comfort food

Although restaurants are cautiously reopening, if you prefer to order in, try the new wave of curated cloud kitchens offering home-style food

August 05, 2020 05:02 pm | Updated 09:18 pm IST

The non-veg Bento box from KCK Food Pack

The non-veg Bento box from KCK Food Pack

The past five months have proven that it is impossible to recreate the restaurant experience at home. Not even if you are Pradhyuman Maloo, in Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking , ostentatiously wielding liquid nitrogen and fox nuts, shadowed by a nervous army of kitchen staff.

His recipe, unveiled on Instagram involves roasting fox nuts ( makhana ), adding peri peri, liquid nitrogen, then “gold dust and good vibes”. Alternatively, toss makhana in turmeric, red chilli powder and chaat masala for a much easier and tastier, if less camera-friendly, version (“Gold dust and good vibes” optional.) This way, you are less likely to burn your mouth, oesophagus and upper airway with improperly consumed liquid nitrogen, which has no business in a home kitchen.

Of course, in a good restaurant, trained chefs bring much more to the table than Pradhyuman’s mangled molecular gastronomy. Which is why, wholly adapting a restaurant menu for delivery is impossible: temperature, texture and presentation are vital. Inevitably, compromises have to be made.

The alternative is setting up cloud kitchens with menus created for takeaway. Flavours need to be heightened and dishes must be robust enough to travel well. (Biryani, for example, which has been the lockdown’s most popular, takeaway dish across India.)

Over the past few months, we have seen a rise in well-loved Chennai brands launching cloud kitchens, with menus specifically tailored for benched families craving normalcy and professional cooking.

KCK Food Pack

Enter the Mallu Bento box. Instead of reopening Kappa Chakka Kandhari, now that lockdown rules have eased, Chef Regi Mathew has launched KCK Food Pack as a separate vertical, focussing on takeaway comfort food.

Explaining how the new menu was curated, he says, “We are looking at how the dish tastes after one hour, and how it travels. We planned portions keeping in mind how a family orders, with dishes that can be shared.”

The star here is the Malabari Bento box (₹ 540), a joyful, if unexpected, blend of sleek Japanese aesthetics and an extravagant Kerala wedding menu. Arriving in a neat rectangular box, the pack includes biryani, a flaky paratha and small, but rich, portions of prawn roast, chicken curry, chutney, pickle and caramel custard. An admittedly overwhelming buffet of hearty flavours, but appealingly good value for money. And the advantage of WFH is you can pop any unfinished food into the fridge for another meal.

Although KCK is known for Kerala cuisine, sourced from family cookbooks, this launch features food from other southern States. So while there are popular staples such as tapioca, puttu , fish fry and payasams , it also includes Goan prawn curry, Mangalorean chicken gassi and Nellore fish curry. The quality is on par with the restaurant which already has a loyal following.

“We will keep adding to this menu,” promises Regi. “We have decided to look at this situation as an opportunity. There is no point saying ‘Oh my God!,’ he states firmly. “We have to keep moving forward.”

Call KCK on 9940499404

Gogo Chai

If you crave crisp, onion pakoras and chai every time it rains, you are not alone. When Ashvin Rajagopalan, who runs Ashvita, woke up to a cloudy, wet day, he asked his restaurant cooks to make a batch of pakoras , and sent out pictures to friends and customers via WhatsApp. They were sold out by tea time.

And, that is how GoGo Chai was born.

The brand is Ashvin’s second lockdown launch. “Our first COVID-19 baby was GoGo Desi,” he says wryly.

Banana Fritters from GoGo Chai

Banana Fritters from GoGo Chai

“We, like many others, were severely hit by the pandemic and lockdown. And, we continue to be hit,” he says. Realising that many people have lost jobs or taken paycuts, but still need to order meals sometimes, he launched GoGo Desi from a separate, vegetarian kitchen in June, focussing on competitively priced home-style food like dal , parathas and okra fry. “The response has been great, because this is home cooking. In fact, this is the exact same food I eat at home everyday,” he says.

With WFH, Ashvin realised that there was another opportunity: a brand centred around chai time, running only from 3pm to 5 pm. “We are trying to see what the market is like — surprisingly it is huge,” he says. After the onion pakora success, he tried Kerala’s pazham pori (₹100 per box), following his mother-in-law’s recipe, resulting in pleasingly crisp edges and sweet, steamy interiors. Then came chilli bajjis , oozing cheese (₹125). Although GoGo Chai officially launches in September, try these snacks via GoGo Desi, as the team builds the chai menu. Meanwhile, Ashvin is working on convincing his aunt to share her legendary masala vadai recipe with his cooks.

Call GoGo Desi on 42109990

This weekly column tracks the city’s shifting culinary landscape. Heard of a new venture? Tell me:

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