Cook, eat out of the box

Shipra Bhansali and Tanul Mishra are trashing food barriers between states, one box at a time

We find Shipra Bhansali, 33, and Tanul Mishra, 36, waiting patiently at a café in Lower Parel when we are late by 40 minutes due to the delay caused by a train derailment on Wednesday. “Don’t worry, we are a startup; we have loads to discuss during downtime,” Bhansali smiles.

The former colleagues became partners in 2012 when they launched Eatopia, a site that shared and documented Indian home recipes.

Tanul Mishra and Shipra Bhansali
Tanul Mishra and Shipra Bhansali

“People find all kinds of recipes in cookbooks, but what about the treasures of home-cooked meals? Our country is so diverse; every family has its own style of cooking,” says Mishra, who hails from a Bihari family from Darbhanga but is married to a Malayali.

Bhansali, on the other hand, has had the pleasure of a rich food legacy. I am a Marwadi from Jodhpur, married to a Malayali. My parents have lived in Indonesia, Bangladesh, even China. So I have had the oppor-tunity to try all kinds of foods.”

Share and cook
The idea to help people discover a variety of food made by great artisanal food makers across India, led the ladies to create themed DIY boxes that carry ingredients and condiments priced between R85 and R699. “People living in cities have no idea of ingredients available in the rest of India. Our first box was a Mango box, which carried three types of pickles,” says Bhansali.
In 2015, however, they renamed their firm Eatelish. “The problem with Eatopia was that people would end up calling it Ethopia,” laughs Bhansali.

These chillies are pickled in curd and salt
These chillies are pickled in curd and salt

What’s new
This festive season, they have launched two new boxes – A Southern Heat box of condiments including kondattam molagu (Kerala), pondu chutney (Tamil Nadu) and chammanthi podi (Kerala), and the Delights Spice Box, which comes with achari tikka masala, Malabari biryani masala and bottle masala. “All these come with a veg and non-veg recipe,” says Bhansali.

Their upcoming Agra Box, containing three kinds of peethas and dal math, launches this Diwali.

The ingredients are sourced from small food business and homemakers. “For example, our Tamil Lunch Box, which has five types of rice mixes, is made by an ex-journalist who wanted to popularise family recipes. The achari tikka masala comes from a homemaker in Ranchi,” shares Mishra.

“Kolkata is our biggest market. They love to try out south Indian food,” says Mishra.

Currently, the pair sells products from 10 states, including Agra, Assam, Gujarat, UP, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

“We pick artisanal souvenirs from across the country. In Jharkhand, this winter, we will source red chillies. The seeds are removed, mixed with mustard seeds and filled back into chillies, which are then pickled. In the Southern Heat box, we have kondattam molagu, which are chillies fermented in curd along with spices and salt. You have to fry them. They are divine,” says Bhansali.

Next up is the Poona masala, which a home chef in Jharkhand is concocting. She refuses to reveal the ingredients, but it is flavoursome, we hear.

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