Open, stir, serve. Have you tried DIY meal kits yet?

Fancy a gourmet meal?

Fancy a gourmet meal?   | Photo Credit: Deagreez

Tired of sweating it out in your kitchen during lockdown? Fake it with DIY meal boxes that enable even the most reluctant home cooks pull off elaborate three-course meals

Sweat the onions. Blanch those beans. Make a roux. Open new tab. Google meaning of roux.

Let’s face it, cooking can be challenging, especially if you want the food to taste professional and look Insta-worthy.

“Or you could try DIY meal boxes,” laughs Shweta Gupta, director, Novotel Chamiers. Their meal kits were launched last month, under a new brand, Tossed. “DIY is going to be the new normal. Even post-lockdown, people aren’t immediately dining out. But at the same time, they want tasty restaurant food,” she says. The focus, she feels, is shifting to small gatherings of six and 10. Ordering in a meal box is a quick way to make fresh gourmet food, she adds.

An Asian DIY meal from Tossed

An Asian DIY meal from Tossed   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT


The fact that it is simple adds to its advantage. “You don’t have to buy raw ingredients. All you need to do is open the pack, put the contents together and stir for a while or pop it into an oven. Everything takes just 10 minutes,” adds Shweta, who, while trying out the kits at home, got her nine-year-old son to whip up the meals.

Tossed offers 14 dishes, from pizzas to gnocchi. They also have a mix for brownies and two cookie jars to keep kids engaged. Shweta says they are averaging about 40 orders a day, with prices that start at ₹799.

What started as a COVID-19 contingency strategy has spawned a brand for the Little Italy group of restaurants. Towards the end of March, they started delivering meal kits of their pizzas, pastas, burrito bowls and Indian chats in Chennai, Bengaluru and Pune. They have so far sold 1,650 kits, according to Amrut Mehta, the director of the restaurant chain. He says, “We sensed a demand for the raw ingredients. So, along with the meal boxes, we also started selling several varieties of pasta, sauce, cheese among others under our new brand, Acasa.” Over the last few weeks, diners like Burgerman and big brands like Rebel Foods (which has restaurants like Faasos, Behrouz and Firangi Bake under its belt) have also hopped on to the DIY bandwagon.

Meanwhile, as the Saturday night party crowd finds themselves confined to their living rooms, DIY cocktails are also being launched across the country. Krish, the bartender at Koox, has put together Kooxtail, a box of premixed mixers. There are four mixers, for margarita, martini, gimlet and whiskey/cognac. And each box (priced at ₹1,999) contains eight tubes of mixers and detailed instructions on how to mix them.

Cheers! Pre-mixed mixers from Sidecar

Cheers! Pre-mixed mixers from Sidecar   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT


Raising a toast

Delhi-based Sidecar, on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars, and Cocktails & Dreams in Gurgaon, are also delivering their popular premixes, with a focus on seasonal local ingredients. For example, this month it is wood apple. The premixes come in bottles of 200 ml priced at ₹400 per bottle. “Each bottle makes about six drinks. When a customer places an order, we send them a minute-long video of cocktail preparation,” says Yangdup Lama of Sidecar, adding, “We make four different pre-mixes every week depending on the availability of local ingredients.” The bartenders at Sidecar make the mixes in such a way that even if the recipe suggests vodka, it can be easily replaced with white rum. They call it the “flexi-liquor option”. They are also customising. The clients can tell the mixologist what spirits they have at home, and the team will make a mix to suit the alcohol.

What good are cocktails without starters? If potato chips are just not cutting it and you miss all the interesting bar food, Radio Room is sending out some of their popular starters, de-constructed. “These include pre-marinated kebabs and Kakinada chicken, among others. All you need to do is toss them together and the portions hold good for two to three people,” says Sandesh Reddy, one of the partners of the resto-bar.

Sandy’s, also owned by Sandesh, is doing a range of meal kits too. To better understand what his clients were looking for, he put up a post on social media, a month ago, asking suggestions for what comfort food they would like in a DIY format. The answers ranged from burgers to avocado on toast.

“Soups and burgers are the most popular,” says Sandy, who received 60-plus orders in a day in the first month. Other favourites include pancakes, pastas, panini, pizzas, an Asian kit with fried rice, one-pot Asian meals, noodles...

Called Chef In A Box, the kit includes everything except oil, salt and pepper. “The idea is to provide a platform to make your own. We do all the prep, cutting, and provide the sauces,” says Sandesh.

Pizza by Pumpkin Tales

Pizza by Pumpkin Tales   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT


When the lockdown started, Chindi Varadarajulu of Pumpkin Tales and Zhouyu realised that customers would be buying a lot of takeout and it would get boring after a while. “This is something the whole family can get involved in,” she says, explaining how her DIY kits give people the freedom to get creative with their meals, in terms of topping and additions.

While the pizzas (the base is 80% cooked), tubs of soup, pre-cooked burgers, wantons and shakshuka are a hit among her clientèle, Chindi’s recently-launched range of sauces has a following too. There are five for now: Harissa, pesto, black pepper, Xian and XO sauce. “The Xian sauce is vegetarian and packs in an umami flavour. It has 13 ingredients such as sesame seeds, black fermented beans, soy beans, shiitake mushrooms... It can be used as a relish, or to stir-fry and in noodles,” explains Chindi, who believes that the way forward is to keep reinventing to capture the market.

Quick fix
  • ID in Chennai just launched their DIY vadas, parotta kurma, podi idlis, kuzhi panayaram and dosas. “We are giving pre-mixed chutneys that comprise dal and spices in measured quantities. The clients can just grind and have it,” says Nithin Suresh, general manager of SPI Diner.
  • Sanchez and Sriracha, in Bengaluru, has 12 varieties of meal kits for tacos, nachos and khow suey.
  • Go Native, the sustainable lifestyle brand in Bengaluru, offers Rainbow Beauty bowl (chickpea tikki, pita bread, beetroot chutney, broccoli, zucchini and kale), Indian Farmers Pizza (thin-crust ragi pizza topped with basil pesto, mozzarella cheese, broccoli, cherry tomato, spinach and caramel onion), and black rice dosa batter, among other kits.

While DIY boxes are not a new concept, now that families are home together during lockdown, and eager to experiment with new cuisines, this format is gaining popularity. For restaurants trying to stay afloat in a competitive market, giving customers options helps them stand out.

How sweet!

Motichoor laddoo in 10 minutes, milk Mysore pak in 20, pizza in 15 and salad in five. A few food entrepreneurs in Hyderabad have launched a new service, for food lovers, in a box.

The iconic Almond House took up the challenge of offering some of their customers’ favourites like bobbatlu, motichoor laddoo and milk Mysore pak as part of their DIY range. The ingredients that go into preparing these items come packed in attractive boxes and require little else, except probably a cup of water.

(With inputs from Prabalika Borah and Praveen Sudevan)

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Printable version | Jul 15, 2020 5:14:09 PM |

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