Home chef Kalpana Talpade's YouTube channel is introducing the world to recipes of the close-knit Pathare Prabhu community
Chimboricha Khadkhadla, Saranga fry, Bomblache Methkut are among Pathare Prabhu delicacies that Kalpana Talpade serves at her Borivli home. Pics/NIMESH DAVE
On a warm Sunday afternoon, Kalpana Talpade is seen playing host to around 12 strangers, who have gathered at her residence in Borivli East for a traditional Pathare Prabhu thali. When the 63-year-old mentions that Chimboricha Khadkhadla is on the menu, their eyes light up. One of the guests is quick to inform her that she had first seen the crab dish on Talpade's YouTube channel. "Today, I'll get to eat it," she says, not hiding her excitement.
Talpade, who has been running Kalpana's Kitchen for five years, is no stranger to these compliments. With over 16,400 followers and more than 500 food videos on her vlog, Talpade has done what people from her community have mostly shied away from - introducing the kitchen secrets of the Pathare Prabhus to the world.
"The Pathare Prabhus, like the Parsis and Kolis, were one of the earliest and oldest settlers in Mumbai," she says. Like most close-knit, integrated and affluent communities, this one is also very rigid, she said. Their recipes - among the most prized - are still largely unknown. "You don't have a single restaurant in the city where you can relish an authentic Pathare Prabhu meal," says Talpade, who has previously participated in MasterChef India.
Last year, Talpade started hosting monthly groups at her home, in order to acquaint food lovers with the centuries-old dishes, serving them veg and non-veg thaalis for anywhere between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500. But, she took the baby steps way back in 2013, when her recipe videos went viral among the student community of Rotterdam, Netherlands. "My daughter had got a scholarship to pursue an architecture course there. But, like most kids she started getting homesick and was missing my food. When she came back to Mumbai for a holiday, she took videos of me preparing the meals. Back in Netherlands, she started inviting friends over to try out her dishes, and soon they were a hit. When they asked her to share the recipes, she simply uploaded those videos online," recalls Talpade. Before the homemaker realised, she had become popular among vloggers.
The Pathare Prabhu pav is prepared with yeast made from raw potato, chana dal and milk
But, it was only when Talpade received a surprise email from one of her NRI followers from the community, telling her how she had helped him tide his craving for home food, that she decided to make the YouTube channel public. Today, Talpade uploads at least two recipes a week, a majority of them being Pathare Prabhu dishes. All of them are shot and edited by Talpade, a former professional computer programmer, on her smartphone. "I used to cook as a child, along with my mum. So, most of these recipes are hand-me-downs. My mother-in-law also had a huge stash of recipes that she had collected back then," she says, while explaining why she never runs out of material for the channel.
What makes the Pathare Prabhu dishes stand out is the simple cooking technique. "There is no grinding involved, neither do we use coconut. The base for the curries is usually oil, garlic, onions and coriander leaves. And we use dry spices," she says.
The stories behind the names of some of the dishes are also interesting. For instance, Chimboricha Khadkhadla derives its name from the sound made while biting into the crab shell; Bomblache Methkul takes its name from the pickled spices used to prepare the dish.
Her most viewed dish till date is the Pathare Prabhu pav that is relished with aam ras. "Our bread is different from what you get in the market. In the olden days, we baked our own bread at home," says Talpade. The yeast that is used to prepare this Pathare Parabhu delicacy is made from a 'secret recipe' comprising raw potato, chana dal, milk and water.
Talpade doesn't hesitate to sharing her recipes. "I don't believe in keeping secrets. Food is to be shared and enjoyed. I would be happier if more and more people try out my dishes. Authentic food has its own place in history," she says. If there is one ingredient that's still not known to anyone, it's Talpade's pounded garam masala recipe. "I am reserving that for a book that I hope to write someday," she says.
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