The lockdown period has seen different kinds of home-based businesses launch, especially in the realm of food. Kolkata-based Baishali Chakravarti started her cloud kitchen Nohoru in 2020 during the lockdown because she wanted to let everyone experience the food that I grew up eating. Nohoru means 'garlic' in Assamese. She does pre-orders only and gets about fifteen to twenty of them a week. She also does do pop-ups and is always looking for entrepreneurs to collaborate with.
The most popular items in her menu are the dishes from the Northeast like Gahori Kola Til, Gahori Bhaja, Whole Chicken Roast and the Winter Chicken Curry. And, of course, the crabs that they bring fresh from Andaman are hot ticket items. She also caters to large groups of about thirty to fifty people right now, but is looking to expand. She caters to offices and parties and is nowforaying into event organisation. The average price per dish is around Rs300 for a dish.
Some of the dishes on her repertoire that you can order are: Pork Kola Til - made with homemade black sesame paste, garlic and chilli. A very earthy rustic dish, to be polished off with joha rice; Gahori with Lai Xaag - a completely oil-free dish made with lai xaag and bamboo shoot, best accompanied with aloo pitika and a roasted tomato and bhut jolokhia (ghost chilli) chutney; Goalando Steamer Curry - "I heard about this dish from a story my father told me about boatmen from the Goalando Ghat preparing this light, but flavourful chicken curry with minimal spices and dried fish while the steamer boat travelled from Goalando to Narayanganj." Then there's the crab dish of Kankrar Jhaal - a hot, spicy crab curry made from the crabs brought in fresh from Andaman, finished off with a generous dash of ghee. Nohoru does other regional Indian dishes as well.
For Christmas and New Year, Baishali had laid out Pork Vindaloo, Coorgi Pork, Pepper Pot Chicken, Winter Chicken Curry with Vegetables, Garlic Butter Crabs, and a whole Steamed Fish made with ginger and tomatoes. For the Bengali New Year Poila Boisakh, she hassome lovely Ilish Bhaapa, Chingri Malai Curry, Bhetki Patori, and Gahori Kola Til Roasted and Steamed Pork. The kola til (black sesame) adds a distinct earthy nutty and rustic flavour to the dishes.
We caught up with Baishali for a chat recently. Here's an excerpt:
The food memories that she takes inspiration from
The food that was prepared by my mother which I grew up eating. We had a happy amalgamation of both Bengali and North-East, since my father is Bengali and my mother is Assamese. So khorisa and maccher muitha both found their place of pride on the table. I remember my mother cooking gahori bhaja, joha rice, and aloo pitika and the smell still lingers in my mind.
Coming from a mixed culture family- my mother is Assamese and my father, Bengali, I have such special memories of food. My grandfather’s home in Asansol had a huge dinner table and when it was set there was food from end to end, it was a feast everyday with numerous varieties of fish, the taste still lingers. The mutton curry for dinner used to slow cook while we were having. My kakima would bring us some to taste and everyone would want a piece. The mutton would finish and we would have to resort to putting eggs in the gravy for dinner instead. That’s the classic Bengali jugaad. My mother would cook bamboo shoot, lai xaag with pork and that smell that usually would put many people off became one of my favourites. She would smoke fish in our tiny kitchen. I have seen her make incredible dishes, the likes of which you would not find even in the best of hotels. We’ve always been a foodie family and food was the core of each and every celebration. I’ve never seen a compromise when it came to food and I follow that same principle with Nohoru, for all its customers have become part of my ever-growing family.
My family has definitely been my biggest influence. With Nohoru, I try to bring to light those dishes that have been lost to time. My grandmother used to tell us stories of the different kind of foods she used to make in Dhaaka, about the steamer boats that invented the Goalando Steamer Curry. I do my best to do right by my heritage because it has made me who I am today.
Recipe: PORK KOLA TIL
• 500g cubed pork belly
• 2 large onions- sliced
• 1 whole head of garlic
• 3 inches ginger
• 1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric powder
• 1 tsp kashmiri laal mirch powder
• 1 tsp coriander powder
• Salt as per taste
• 1 tsp black pepper
Par-boil the pork and keep it aside. In a large kadhai, put very little oil and all the masalas mentioned above, as well as the sliced onions. Cook well until the oil floats to the top. Add the pork and let cook with the masalas until it is tender. Roast and grind the black sesame, toss with the pork and serve warm with white sesame seeds as a garnish.