We have all caught romanticized glimpses of gypsies, nomads and banjaras in movies. But, how do we find them in real life – elusive and transitory as they are by their very description. But we did!
And that is our next home culinaire, Ayandrali Dutta – an epitome of nomadic living. Catching hold of Andy is as easy as finding smooth traffic in Mumbai - it took us three weeks to get her at her home. As she says, ’If I didn’t travel, how would I explore the culinary scene across different landscapes?
The moment we rang her doorbell and got a glimpse of the inside, every element screamed ANDY. Little onions hanging in the kitchen, fridge magnets from all over the globe, quirky mugs, hand painted kettles and leftover wine bottles, a life size Madhubala poster adorning the living room - the list is endless.
No matter how hectic the day has been, one ritual Andy follows is that she cooks dinner herself. ‘’I have learnt all this as a child from my mom as she use to make me sit on her lap while she prepared the meals. Kitchen is my sanctuary and cooking is meditative for me”. We can vouch for that since we witnessed it ourselves - from preparing the masala to cutting veggies to getting the dishes ready on the table – it was like a one-person orchestra in one flawless performance.
Happily chit chatting with us in the kitchen, she prepared a delectable spread which had Maacher Jhaal (Mustard fish), Mutton curry, Paneer with Kasoori methi. Sweet endings came in the form of home-made Jaggery and coconut laddoo.
As we were floating in sweet nirvana, she introduced us to the original Cheesecake from Orissa, Chhena Pora And we always thought it’s from Greece :D
In an itinerant life that Andy leads, perhaps the only predictable spot is her in Kolkata during Durga Puja week. It is her annual trek back to her roots to get her bearings for another year of travel in search of food, experiences and more.
But for all her accomplishments and international gastronomic exposure, she still prefers simple rustic food as compared to a fine dining meal. Simplicity in food is what brings out the true flavours of a dish and this is vividly reflected in her writing as well. Oops, we forget to mention that she is a writer by profession and would it surprise you, if majority of her work dwells around food and travel. Very recently she started AD’s cookhouse her home cooked pop-up meals under the name of AD’s CookHouse, eventually leading her to become an enthusiastic self-taught home culinarian. It has taken her a long way into gathering her thoughts, photographs etc. – to explain as simply as she can, and the nuances of traditional Bengali cuisine. She strongly believes that it is one of those cuisines that are vast and elaborate with so many layers to it, so many variations and if probed into the evolution of its origination, it will rightly reflect the history of Bengal.
A smash success, Ayandrali racked up numerous nominations and was being featured in various food videos and articles associated with brands like The Times of India, Times Food, Food Tak, The Hindu, Travel + Leisure magazine, The Quint, Network 18, Business Standard and a lot more to name. She reveals her simplified approach to adventurous cooking with fresh ingredients, offering authentic flavors with a modern touch to reinvent home cooks’ classic dishes, rightly reflecting what the tradition and culture has to offer!
One of Andy’s golden rule has been to eat, cook and travel local with the locals, residents and villagers, whenever possible. She has taken over a complete stranger’s kitchen in McLeodganj and also been invited for an authentic Banarsi meal at a boatman’s house. This is inspirational stuff that even travel and food channels don’t talk about..
Another mantra that Andy shared with us is her passion for freshness – she always makes the masala fresh, as it is the heart of the dish. She is also a great believer in experimentation - most of her recipes are results of in her own kitchen or someone else’s.
Here is Andy in her own words ; Tea Junkie, Gypsy Feet, Die-hard Romantic. Loves to be in “HakunaMatata” state. Super cook and perpetually hungry.
Written by Team CommEat