Dum-a-Dum Biryani & Kebabs – An interview with an entrepreneur and a passionate foodie.

It was a hot summer evening in Pune, I set out to look for a take away to treat aai- baba to something yum to celebrate a new milestone for mum who was recovering post surgery. Not willing to walk too much I was pleasantly surprised to see this brightly lit signage and a small crowd of youngsters on their bikes outside this place called Dum-a-Dum Biryani

I walked across to this cheery and brightly lit take away, the fiery and tempting aroma of kebabs   wafted around the place.

The place was clean and tidy and the tiny kitchen was buzzing with activity. I ordered a Lasooni Murg kebab and Tangdi Kebab and waited outside, watching the busy main road and the steadily building traffic. Just a few turns away is the Mumbai Pune expressway via Chandani Chowk. A primarily residential area in Pune, it has several educational institutes and IT companies Hence the large student and IT crowd hover around this tiny take away. This young set night disappears by night and mingles with the resident locals and it’s only in the evening when one sees large groups of youngsters with their modern bikes zipping around that one can actually estimate how much of Pune is a composed of this transient population.

This flurry of activity outside Dum-a-Dum keeps engaged in observation and it’s only when I hear my name being bellowed from the counter inside that I snap out of my reverie.

On an impulse I decide to talk to the very busy manager and ask him if the owner would be willing to give me a few minutes as I was curious to know about how Dum – a – Dum came into being.

He readily parts with a name and mobile number and I am suddenly very excited, well after all this would be my very first interview, IF the owner agrees.

Luckily for me, one phone call and a few messages later, I am all set to meet Mr.Rakesh Rajendran, the Founder and C.E.O of this professionally run start-up hospitality qsr firm.

Armed with my new Cannon SLR and a brand new cute blank diary from Either Or at Pune (made by the Doodle Factory), I stroll down to meet the person who will give me my first ever interview.

I get an extremely warm greeting and before we start chatting there is glass of cool and delicious salted buttermilk offered to me. I have written down a few questions I tell him which I will ask him but we get chatting about food and kebabs and well, retail and lo and behold ! He tells me that he too was a part of modern retail in Pune before he decided to turn into an entrepreneur!

Any inhibitions I have of how to conduct this interview are gone with the wind and we exchange notes about the retail industry and the changing scene in Pune. After all only retailers can truly understand and appreciate what it is like to work in the fast paced retail environment in Pune. Food Retail  is a changing dynamic industry which is probably the most challenging form of organised retail .

Rakesh tells me that was the head of IT for one of the leading food retailers in the country and has also lived and worked in Chicago for 7 years prior to that.

Well read, widely travelled, he is a self proclaimed foodie and also rather camera shy as I was about to find out.

RR ( shall call him that for ease of expression and shall refer to myself as well simply MJ), tells me that this outlet is one of 6 outlets in Pune and has been operational since Dasheera of 2010.RR tells me that he believes in soft launches hence most of his outlets open on auspicious days and have always received excellent response from the locals . His retail experience has held him in good stead in terms of zeroing in on locations , setting up a system for home deliveries and hiring and retaining staff.

Well it’s time now to ask some questions

 MJ: Silly first question, why the name Dum- a – Dum?

RR: (smiles) Haven’t u heard the song ‘’Dum -a-Dum’’ mast kalandar? Well on a serious note, we started out with the name ‘’Village Kitchen’’ which was quickly vetoed by friends and family. The whole idea of a Kebab and Biryani take away should be a fun concept and has to have a catchy name , hence the name Dum-a-Dum , of course it has to with the fact we offer Dum Biryani on the menu.

MJ: Why a kebab and biryani joint and not any other kind of cuisine?

RR: I conceptualised this format and got a core group of friends who had worked with me in the past and who understood my passion for the hospitality industry to back my efforts by funding this venture.  I managed to convince my friend Tushar Bhole also to actually quit and help start-up this hospitality business.

It was a very well researched decision and was something I was keen on, it also thanks to the fact that I have travelled across many places and always wanted to set up a place where great tasting food and convenience go hand in hand.

MJ: What is your involvement in recipe development?

RR: We have done a lot of research on the best selling kebabs and popular flavours and have worked with my chefs to develop our own unique Biryani flavour. The most popular kebabs that people normally expect on a menu are tweaked. As such we are always looking at experimenting with say a new ingredient or a new rage and are very open to feedback from our patrons as well. I am not a trained chef but have travelled extensively across the north of India and have then with great though come up with the current menu

(Phew! it’s hard work this kebab business I think ,  while I gobble up the lasooni kebab comes from the kitchen for me to devour , what a treat ! Little does one think about what goes on behind the scenes)

Lasooni Kebab Image 1

Lasooni Kebab Image 2

 

RR goes to tell me a little bit about biryani’s and how we develop our liking towards a certain type of biryani which for us is ‘’THE’’ absolutely best biryani ever. Ofcourse it’s to do with where one grows up and has tasted local flavours packed into the meat and rice . The most popular biryani currently on our menu is the ‘’Lucknowi’’ Biryani . To get to a place where we develop a known type of biryani and get the taste upto our liking and then have our customers come back to us and tell us that they ‘’loved’’ our biryani is very satisfying.

We give a lot of thought before we add anything to our menu and since we are a take away only chain, it’s very important that we get the taste right as the only interaction a customer has with anyone representing us our delivery boys and the voice over the phone!

I come from Kerala where I can say that there are at least 7 types of Biryani which are popular and known, there would be as many variations of taste and recipes as there would be regions and local culture.

(So true, I think to myself, food is so much about the place and its people)

My idea is that we should become known as a place that serves ‘’FOOD with a SOUL’’, not just another ‘’regular’’ food take away joint.

By now there is a plate of soft Aloo kebabs called Tandoori Aloo ke Gutkeand Makrana tangdi kebab – a juicy succulent version of Tangdi Kebab (aloo meaning potatoes in Hindi, the ones used here are the baby new potatoes , tangdi meaning chicken legs in Hindi ) , I get busy clicking and try to get the best angels , I request RR to pose with the team but he politely refuses saying ‘’ in this interview the heroes are my team and of course the food’’ Well said isn’t it ?

The Aloo ke Gutke are so tasty, it’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted ummmm

Tandoori Aloo ke Gutke

 

Tangdi Makrana Kebab

 

kebabs with chaas

 

MJ: What are the biggest challenges you face?

RR: Finding and retaining good staff, the home delivery ones, who are the ‘’FACE’’ of the brand and are not just delivery boys. We try and ensure that each outlet is like a tiny unit in itself that  runs on a deeply ingrained feeling of ownership in itself .It’s important for me that each employee understand my passion and treats the place as their own. It’s all the more important for me as I have in turn to convey that confidence and spirit to all those who believed in me and have also invested their monies in this venture.

Also managing operational overheads is very challenging.

MJ: Who is your closest competitor?

RR: Well, we like to think that since we are primarily looking to become the best take away chain in the city and country, I would like to benchmark with Domino’s.

MJ: Any new branches opening up?

RR (Face lights up with apparent joy) Yes! One in a big mall in Pune and one in New Bombay .Am really looking forward to the one in New Bombay as compared to Pune, the attitudes and expectations differ.

MJ: Do you serve goat or lamb meat in the mutton Biryani?

RR: we offer both and also offer halal meat, for bulk orders we need a day or two’s notice ahead for large orders. As such we have 6 different Biryanis on our menu and also offer family packs and party packs. The Chicken Mutka Duma Dum Biryani cooked in a clay pot is heavenly and also very popular.

We don’t use any artificial food colours and we use raw paya to tenderise our meat, that gives the meat it soft, succulent and juicy nature, we are quite proud of our creation.

Meanwhile, some regular customers stroll in and RR gets up, excuses himself and goes to have a chat with them.

I find a rare quite moment at the counter and get the smiling team members to stand still for a few seconds, click away, polish off the last of the mouth watering kebabs and wash it down with yet another glass of the chilled heavenly chaas.

I thank my mild mannered host and trudge back home, happy to have wrapped up my first ever interview for my blog!

Now for the details: For heavenly kebabs and Biryani head to Paud Road, next to Reliance Fresh, Bhusari Colony, Paud Road, Kothrud, Pune. The menu can be downloaded from Zomato.com – use the following search string – Home / Pune / Kothrud Area / Kothrud / Dum-A-Dum – Biryani and Kebabs.

Busy Counter

Customer Waiting in the evening

 

Happy Team members

 

Pic of poster in store

 

Kebabs all set to be grilled!

Borough Market – a sliceoff history,heritage and ofcourse FOOD!

If ever there was memory I revisit connected to food, browsing, new experiences and feeling that I LIVED and loved life to the fullest it is this The Friday in July when I visited Borough for the first time ever….

Coming from India and have spent most of my life in Bombay I am no stranger to massive open food bazaars, haggling to get one free lemon or a bunch of coriander and feeling triumphant that I could get HAPOOS AAMBE – the king of fruits Alphonso Mangoes at a few rupees lower than the previous customer ….old memories of accompanying my mother as a child to the market every other day and helping her carry home-made cloth and nylon bags full of fresh vegetables and fruits. With these vivid memories in mind I set off with my pal N to visit the market.

Getting there by tube was fun and the first glimpse of the market sort of gave me that feeling of a newcomer to a large city, no not of feeling LOST but simply overwhelmed by the sheer variety of goods available,Of course the most beautiful part is the way all the sights and smells make their way into your mind, literally it was my nose leading me to the food !Set in Southwark, one is found staring at the SHARD as soon you exit from the Tube station, towering over the place it is an imposing glass structure.

The market is massive,has a really amazing old world charm thanks to its origin roughly dating back to the 1800’s when it started off as a wholesale market and continues to be,to this date.

Of course we  took a lot of pictures and ate many free samples along the way but the places where I feel silent with admiration were the Fresh Fish counter – for its sheer variety and activity surrounding the stall, the Mushrooms on display-I guess I had never seen so many colourfull ,delicate and edible mushrooms in one place before ! The Gamston Wood Farm with its exotic meats,yes as exotic as ostrich meat – left me totally speechless but owing to my many food allergies I didn’t experiment, but some day soon I do hope too !I purchased some ripe nectarines , ripe juicy tomatoes and some crunchy salad leaf bunches.

The Market itself is divided into a few large chunks, we started by walking around the fresh fruit,vegetable and sea food shops, moving onto the inner food court where one find everything from superior Assam tea(which I did buy and got home in a cute brown paper bag and treat myself to some mornings with a generous chunk of ginger and plenty of milk, proper boiled sweet Indian CHAI!) to different varieties of cheese,exotic breads,organic foods,herbs,spices,nuts,dates,desserts sighhhh, then one is led to the many fresh food stalls where one can eat exotic burgers, hot dogs, rolls, pizza or sandwiches,soups,salads almost any imaginable snack packed with fresh meat,cheese and all things divine,I certainly envy all the office goers who can visit this place during lunch hour!Not to be missed are the bakery,patisserie and confectionary stalls, creative, hand-made and exotic all rolled into one, giving into those sweet craving is very easy indeed.Each trader no matter how small the stall exuded passion for their craft.Lot of international foods are available here in this massive expanse of a market each with its own spot under the sun so to speak.

There are many pubs and restaurants in the vicinity which sort of take over when the market itself shuts down for the day.

Simply walking past the fresh oysters and taking in all the gorgeous food aromas wafting around does good for any appetite.Aptly then Borough Market has won ”London Food Market of the Year” 2010 at the London Lifestyle awards.The sea food selection is the best in the city and it is also a great place to buy some amazing wines and spirits, from far-flung places across the globe.

”N” and I got ourselves ” The Spitfire”  and  a ”BBQ Banger” respectively from a friendly fella who happily smiled for my camera! Big Bonus points to him, am definitely going back for more yummy food!The rail-bridge crossing over this part of this market causes a bit of a rattle-shake-shudder when trains pass by overhead.

We took our hot meals wrapped in tissues and sat down in the compound of the Southwark Cathedral with many other and though it was windy we hardly noticed, eating our lunch like hungry school kids with sauce dripping off our face!

We then ate ice cream made from goat’s milk,thick,creamy and delicious are base emotions, it transported me to a green farm far away into the English countryside, I left I was on a patch of land watching women dressed up like village belle of times gone by carrying pails of creamy thick milk and barns full of healthy cows and other animals…. N had to shake me out of my dream world so we could continue browsing;)

Ice cream in hand and after much posing for pictures we strolled to the area with big shops which have been around for many years so much so that they have are food institutions on their own, one of them is Ginger Pig.When one enters the Ginger Pig shop,it’s almost like walking into a museum of oink oink 😉 EVERY possible cut,chop,slice,dip,garnish associated with cooking pork all under one roof – sigh ….

After strolling around some more and drinking in the sites, we decided it was time to leave but not before we spent some time browsing the flower stalls outside and purchased some magic potions from Neal’s Yard and some more relaxing tea for me,which I sampled at their store,it made me all drowsy and calm just what I recommend for a good nights sleep, count more deep sleep zz’s after drinking this one folks…

Chocolate – the food fit  for The God’s especially the one made by Hotel Chocolat’….. the  wooden interiors with the dim lighting and walls filled with chocolates so divine and varied that we just had to go in and have some liquid chocolate , mine was mixed with CHILLI ! yes, awesome right? we also got to sample many of the new innovations and sta down on one of the massive wooden benches and sipped our hot chocolate and dreamt of ……well more CHOCOLATE!

Though the weather decided to play spoil sport,nothing could take away the feeling of a day spent pampering my senses….all I wanted to do was go home with my spoils wrapped in crinkly brown paper and sink my teeth into the nectarines and turn the tomatoes into a thick creamy soup.

If I could I would have written a poetry to describe my feelings when I left the market, I wish I could come up with some quotable quote to put all that happens in one’s mind in the market in a nutshell, but really , it wouldn’t suffice, no written word or picture can do justice to the beauty of this vibrant part of London’s heritage and history, treat yourself to a day out Visit Borough Market ….

Visit the official website for updates on opening times, events and news http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk

Hover over each image to view the title.

Dedicated to Pigeons WORLD OVER

I have always been fascinated by these feathered fellas , they seem to have an amazing survival technique and are such fun to observe !

I have spent many an evening at Trafalgar square admiring these naughty birds .They always seem to gather around in a hungry bunch whenever they see anyone eating anything at all, not only are they super swift in swooping down at lightning speed to pick up the crumbs as I nervously and rather hungrily gobble my sandwich on a wooden bench watching the fountain and watching the pigeons too from the corner of my eye …. lest they attack me and steal away my meal deal , gosh with a few coins left in my purse ,couldn’t afford another !

Burping and satisfied after a sandwich,crisp and drink meal later , I lazily lounge on the bench as the birds curiously walk around my feet and search under the bench for more crumbs , they then fly to the top of the statue and perch there. I wonder how they always find such prolific locations to poo on !

I have therefore pldeged never to work hard enough to become so famous that after I fall dead someone thinks of erecting a statue of me somewhere, imagine I’d become an instantly popular new ”poop spot” for pigeons,not a pleasant thought that is it?

I always avoided KABOOTAR KHANA at Dadar as much as I could cause the very thought of a zillion pigeons gathered in one place to eat grains donated by willing masses and poop all over the place later ,though may sound ideal to any pigeon , I always feared what if they all decided to gang up against us humans and peck out everyone’s eye balls for fun ? shiver shudder shake shake …. brrr scary thought that .(KABOOTAR KHANA , KABOOTAR in Hindi Language means a Pigeon, can you imagine that in a city like Mumbai , we have a place named after Pigeons and a whole area dedicated to the, isn’t that proof enough for how powerful and omnipresent they are ??!)

(best ever image of Kabootar Khana is taken by Humayunna Peerzaada and is available to be viewed on at the following flickr link – http://www.flickr.com/photos/humayunnapeerzaada/471662046/ ) ( I love all the other albums in his link as well , amazing photography I must say !)

Theres another way I entertain myself while I wait at bus stops (during the Olympics I shall have to do that more frequently me thinks 😉 !!) ,at any given point of time there is always a small group of busy pigeons strutting their feathers near the bus stop, walking around the bin which is always there next to the stop and trying to snuggle up between people’s feet ,maybe to keep warm?

If you observe pigeons on Oxford Street for example I swear , they are busy chatting amongst themselves and checking out the millions of tourists walking all over the place .Whenever I am crossing the road at the main signal at the 4 exits out of Oxford street tube station there will always be a bunch of pigeons walking yes WALKING alongside us humans crossing the road , now why on earth do they do that ?? You have wings fellas remember ??They almost obediently wait for the signal , all the time tilting their neck to one side as if to say ” What ya looking at woman , keep your eyes on the signal will you ?” as soon the signal turns green there they are marching alongside oblivious to the thousands of feet stamping nearby. At times I swear I saw one of the naughtier ones trying to tilt its neck and peek up a womans’ skirt ! Just as it was able to , another pigeon came over and nudged Mr.Peea-Kaboo hard enough , they both then majestically walked away pretending as if nothing had happened ! HA ! Little did they know that I had SEEN their dirty little trick humphfh !Naughty little perverts !

Not to mention the clever ”KABOOTAR’S” that I have encountered in India . They even have an entire song dedicated to them in one famous hindi flick , yes yes it’s true, here’s the link !

This song is proof that Pigeon Mail is faster ,more reliable and more affordable than posting letters at least for our Bollywood stars.This is just one song , there are many more such songs where the pigeons have pivotal roles that get the other actors in lead roles together for a happily ever after end …hummmm

And then I have this pal who now is wiser after studying a few more years but has a passion for breeding ‘homing’pigeons , yes yes and yes , he was rather good with it too.After all they always came back ‘home’ AFTER they were sold 😉

Now with all these observations over the past many years I am sure that pigeons world-wide have some sort of an internationally recognised body run and functioning solely supported by pigeons alone wherein they plan and strategize survival techniques against the growing atrocities by us humans .

Given their amazing ability to stay warm in harsh winters, feed themselves and maintain their population at a constant healthy number ,they are doing a marvellous job at it !

I am never short of opportunities to click snaps of pigeons cosying up, here’s just one such example….

Pigeons posing for me

But the most amazing incident by a pigeon in London that I witnessed left me utterly speechless and CONVINCED that pigeons really ARE very, very smart ….on a dreary day in London (even a bright sunny day can turn dreary especially if you have a day out planned!) this pigeon STOOD alongside several passengers on a busy platform and actually BOARDED the train after us humans **gasp,gulp,gasp*

Then it proceeded to strut under a seat and peck at errant food particles dropped by a messy teenager who had just wolfed down a LARGE sandwich.About 2 stations after this clever bird had BOARDED the train it looked left and right when the door opened at a station,made some cooing sounds and HOPPED off ! GAWD, if I hadn’t consumed coffee that morning I would have certainly slipped into a coma.It definitely beats flying in rainy weather I’d say and ticketkless too.TFL , are you listening?! Guess not…baaah!

Ah well, I better get back to life now and observing more of my feathered companions along the way 😉 Adios !

Oh India I miss your COLOURS SIGHTS SOUNDS and smells ..well almost all of them;)

One of the things I miss most about my life in India is the COLOUR, the colours of daily clothing for example worn by women even in the most modern of cities as it collides with the Sauvé greys and blacks of the suits that walk around. I sorely miss wearing Indian clothes and my favourite glass bangles. Moreover the whole thing where we have colour as part of our home decor is also something I really miss. I have taken a vow that each time I visit India next I shall surely buy some key pieces for placing in my flat to give it a distinctive Indian flavour, the more vibrant colourful and hard to get the object the higher will be its place of importance in my heart and home .

There are these times I miss all that I did like the zillion times I would walk into FAB INDIA with A OR P or just saunter in by myself and ogle at the lovely fabrics and the salivate over the chunky jewellery I especially love their short kurtis (tunics) and silver earrings . I love FAB INDIA clothes and mix matching them with different pieces to wear.

Long back this close pal of mine, S, told me about this blog called Rang Decor , it’s a splash of very beautiful photographs of extremely well done up homes and also awesome places , the most recent post about Kutch and how art is literally everywhere sitting silently amongst very obvious harsh weather and stark poverty is quite a lovely post to SEE , read ,feel and think !

http://rangdecor.blogspot.com/

Such are the ways I amuse myself when I feel the “I miss INDIA” Nostalgia pangs coming along .This is followed by a session of listening to old Bollywood songs on you tube , browsing through photographs of close family and friends for the millionth time and then looking outside to see an almost empty street save for the occasional bus that zips past and some cars . How I miss the sights and sounds of Bombay and Pune. I progress to making a cup of hot tea for myself and start listening to some golden oldies from the Kishore Kumar era ! Sighhh Lifeee …..

My 1st Post …Bombay Blues …

Deja Vu? Or is it my mind playing tricks with me again ?? sighh….

It’s often times nowadays that I slip out of my body and walk the streets of the city where I was born – Bombay to me and Mumbai to many . It is generally triggered by a simple series of photos that I see on FB of someone in Bombay or some poor soul like me that “lives” abroad but “walks” around in Bombay in their head .

So where am I right now ? I am sipping on a cold watermelon juice, alone , on a bright sunny afternoon , wearing a white gunji n blue denim shorts ,my hair is cut in a blunt cut style,something of a short bob like bouncy and fun , blow dried and I am looking at the hot humid and extremely vibrant Colaba Causeway and watching the usual street stalls hawking over priced goods to unsuspecting tourists, prostitues mingle with the rest of the world and try with no success to merge into the fabric of this vivid picture . Then I am walking towards the gateway of India feeling energised after my cold beverage only to sweat it all out by the time I reach but the sight and sounds of the beautiful Arabian sea , the waves crashing against the beautiful stonework take me far far away to a happy place in my head .

I turn and I am sitting at Café Coffee Day at Bandra Bandstand the wind in my hair feels wonderfull and the light spray of salty sea water hitting my face now n then makes me feel humid yet happy . I down a glass of cold cold yummy coffee topped with some marvellous crumbled cookies and attempt to scribble some thing I feel on a tissue paper , promising myself to one day make a blog ….

so finally when I am many miles away from my Bombay City and sitting in a tiny flat somewhere in London , when all the familiar sights and sounds have vanished do I make this blog come alive .

I do get these nostalgia attacks often times and each time I travel , if only in my head the busy yet beautiful streets of Bombay city and relive moments of my lovely life .

Oh yes and I must admit when I was in Pune , I used to get these nostalgia attacks too , especially when I was reading Shantaram . I do resent people who think that he exposed the dirty underbelly of Bombay , he merely stated life as it happened to him and his words, so beautiful , so graphic ,like I was watching a film maybe , why wouldn’t then I walk the streets of Bombay through his words ? Why not ? After all a good book does just that, doesn’t it ???

Someday I am also going to gift myself an i-pad or a tablet , I get these mad ideas when I am on a bus journey that I must write down , but they just turn into wisps of invisible threads and slip out of mind like a silent ghost …. and leave me feeling well, sort of like a person who is reading a gripping murder mystery and just as the end is to reveal all , the door bell rings…. and in comes a painfull neighbour who has to have a cup of TEA and one sided conversation NOW !

OH YES !And, I also get huge feelings of sorrow at not being able to shop and browse through the beautiful outlets of FABINDIA whenever I browse this wondefull blog called Rang décor, it’s a visual melange of all things India expressed in pictures and words that is simply a delight for a sore soul

So with this my dear future readers , I present to you humbly my blog , my thoughts at times totally neurotic but mine all the same .

I love attention who doesn’t ? therefore , I welcome bouquets and brickbats alike , but please desist from comments that are rude, racist ,inflammatory or else I shall give u what I call an “e-kick” and banish for evermore 🙂 serious !

I will always always attempt to give due credit if I am inspired by any material written by any blogger or photograph I use from any place – I hate anyone stealing my work and am sure those that I write from or paste from will also hate me if I don’t mention them .

My thoughts, my words , my life experiences and feelings are ALL my OWN and not borrowed , copied or lifted so therefore there is a copyright I reserve over them , ok ?

I may at times attempt to review or comment on movies , books , make up , fashion etc etc etc etc , which does not mean I get paid , if some one is MAD enough to ever do that , well I shall shout it out from the rooftop , NOT of my current rented flat inside a crumbling Victorian era building of course , why do that when London has so many TALL buildings- yes PUN intended 🙂

I also have a twitter id and am fairly technologically challenged and therefore will not be able to smarten this blog up and am under training , rather have forced myself to be trained by a rather sweet buddy of mine and my hubby’s for that matter , so if there’s any hanky panky stealing attempts , BEWARE , I shall catch u and spank ur backside with a LARGE , very large hairbrush . Humpfh !

I will use a lot of hyperlinks to better the understanding of many things I shall crib about and most times I link to Wikipedia which is an abundance of knowledge. If not the hyperlink will give due credit to the owner or writer of the information.

Phew!!!