Ajanta Burman is a popular name among the Bengali diaspora in Goa. A chef par excellence, she started her home catering service long before the pandemic created a worldwide phenomenon where people discovered their inner chefs! Having recently participated in the Goa Beach Carnival foodpreuner’s stalls, which is where I met this elegantly beautiful lady, I was blissfully satiated having tried my favourite Bengali dish Kosha Mangsho at her kiosk. This bhuna (braised ) mutton in delicious gravy also happens to be her top selling dish in her catering business which she conducts from her home in Caranzalem.
Among the many dishes on her menu, I would definitely recommend her Chingri Malai Curry (prawns in a silky creamy gravy) or Doi Maach (marinated fish cooked in a yoghurt gravy). The vegetarians can choose from all time favourites like Doi Baigun, Dum Aloo , Shukto and more. And of course, Mishti Doi and the ubiquitous Rosogullas are, without doubt, an inescapable weakness of any sweet lover.
This uber talented participant of Master Chef Season 2 started out by trying to recreate dishes she liked at restaurants.
” I was surprised that my innovatively made dishes were so well loved. I took a chance and participated in the All Goa Kitchen Queen contest and to my delight, I won it. The prize was an all expense paid 5 day trip to Singapore! I have never looked back since then and followed my passion to become a chef.”
Apart from getting recognition as a Master Chef, Radisson Blu has felicitated her with Incredible Home Chef award in 2019 and she has since then conducted many pop-ups there as well.
I asked Ajanta if her main clientele were Bengalis living in Goa but surprisingly Non-Bengalis make up a large share of her customers too, proving that deliciously prepared food transcends cultures.
” I never thought Non-Bengalis would love sarson (mustard) based dishes and I was glad to be proved wrong” she says with a laugh.
Prodding her about her personal favourite cuisine, second of course to her own , she reveals it is the robust Rajasthani dishes like Lal Maas and Kadhi Kachori which, not at all to my surprise, she also prepares excellently. She cooks northern cuisines from states like Bihar and Jharkand too, having lived there extensively in the past.
Coming back to Bengali dishes and having heard about a signature dish she has on her menu, the Dak Bungalow Chicken, my scribe’s nose twitched at the story behind this name. Sure enough, Ajanta has a tale to tell.
“Back during the British Raj, administrative officers would have secret meetings or would stop on their travels at circuit houses along the postal routes away from the towns and cities. Groceries and food ingredients were scarcely stocked here so the caretakers of these Dak Bungalows would themselves tend little gardens to grow onions, potatoes. green chillies etc. The rustic recipe slowly evolved , with boiled eggs added to the chicken and potato curry, eventually finding its way to the tables of cityfolk as well”. I made a mental note to order the Dak Bungalow Chicken from her soon.
On a lighter note I shot a couple of rapid fire questions at her and she sportingly replied with her inherent panache.
If she had to cook a candle light romantic dinner what would the dishes on that table be?
” For candle light dinner, I would cook fish steak in the famous Bengali mustard flavour. And Mutton Rezala with flavoured rice.”
What’s her go-to dish in a hurry?
” Kadhi chawal and Bihar’s favourite go-to dish, Tahri. A flavoured rice consisting of veggies, it cooks in no time at all.”
This mouthwatering train of thought led me naturally to my next question. Has she thought about opening her own Bengali restaurant, a welcome addition to Goa’s foodscape in my opinion! Ajanta did not disappoint.
She admits, “It has been my dream for a while no doubt. I am now associated with Fierce Kitchen, a culinary incubator start-up that helps establish foodpreneurs. So maybe my dream will become a reality soon”
We at Incredible Goa Food & Hospitality wish her the very best for the future.
1.Any Minimum Order?
None. Single diners to small families can order too.
- Are you on any food delivery apps?
Not presently but will be available soon.
By Laila Fathima – @lailalikes_