It’s hard to recognise that the the lady going in and out of the kitchen to check the menu is actually singer Anaida, whose music enthralled a generation of music lovers before the internet took over the music industry.
Dressed in a white comfy shirt, jeans and a green scarf wrapped around her neck, the chef/partner SodaBottleOpenerwala, who is half-Indian and half-Persian is bustling with energy as she is set to serve Hyderabadis her authentic Persian delicacies. “Hyderabad has been lovely and is one city which has seen all my avatars,” she enthuses and admits that she had a plan when she dabbled in different fields but not food. “Food happened by chance. I didn’t choose it; it chose me.”
Food as a binding factor
She loves feeding people and as a result, her neighbours in Pune who would never talk to each other, have now become great friends as they bond over her food. “I cannot cook small quantities. Whenever I cook, I share it with neighbours,” she says. In fact, this was one practice started by her mother. “She would say, ‘ Jahan tak khane ka khushboo jaata hai, wahan tak aapko at least ek bite bhejna chahiye .’”
Over the years, many people have asked her, in vain, to start a restaurant. However, her frequent disappointments with the Iranian food she eats in India made was one of the factors that changed her decision. Now she has a restaurant in Mumbai , where most of the recipes are age-old, some passed down by her mother and some that she tweaked a bit.
“In some places the chefs have come from Iran to create a menu but it has been a disappointing experience,” she recalls. The reason: “They Indianise and change the dish. Indian food is specifically spicy. It is not easy to satisfy a palate that is used to chillies. My friends would say, ‘Why are you getting so emotional over a curry.’ But I used to be upset.” She recalls the experience of eating Fesenjan , the Iranian stew flavoured with pomegranate syrup and ground walnuts “It is traditionally made with duck or chicken. Once the chefs put paneer in it!” she rues, as she serves us her sweet-sour recipe of Fesenjan made with shitake mushrooms. “Mohit Balanchandran, the brand head of SodaBottleopenerwala approached me to make authentic Persian food. For the first time I was not doing something to please others,”she shares.
Her musical stint is on as she is doing music mostly international. “Last year, Apache India and I did a song together.” She definitely doesn’t want the things the old way because, “I don’t want the craziness and am happy doing what I wanted to do from the beginning which is meditation music.”
Her passion however lies in the the Power of You healing workshops she conducts and enjoys the most. “I consult for hospitality; there is a Rumi album that I just finished; it is going to be a gift for my dad. It is the most expensive and my best album but am not sure if I want to release it. A lot of things have changed in my head over the years because of my involvement with spirituality. I have now stopped planning. I let the Universe manage it for me and it does that way better than I would do.”