Mana Mashir’s Ghorua Ranna in Mumbai can bring a lot of cheer to all the homesick souls with its carefully crafted Bengali fare. Go, indulge your taste buds from the comfort of your homes. Bong Appétit!
In one of the most memorable scenes from Sriram Raghavan’s National Award-winning film, Andhadhun, Tabu in a Nigella Lawson avatar was seen preparing crab while telling her husband: “Kehte hai crab meat is an aphrodisiac. Spelling mat poochna, matlab chahiye toh bata sakti hoon.”
With that scene playing in the backdrop, imagine what if the actor happens to be on the other side of the call, checking on the names of the ingredients and details of the menu from Mana, the owner of just a few weeks’ old home chef in Versova, Mumbai.
The call was nothing short of a surprise for the reticent cook of traditional Bengali meals, who had started this service during the lockdown months at the insistence of her employer, Anupama Bose, COO of the curated Indie movies platform, MovieSaints.
“Mana Di had received that call, and I didn’t pay much attention to their conversation. I thought it must be just another customer checking the details before placing her order.”
“Mana Di usually keeps the phone on speaker mode, so I heard bits of it. The voice on the other side seemed familiar. It suddenly struck me is that it cannot be anyone else but the gorgeous actor Tabu,” says Anupama, who jokingly calls herself the unpaid manager of Mana Mashir’s Ghorua Ranna.
Anupama immediately called the actor, took her through the required details and answered her queries, and all, thanks to her, even ended up adding a new sweet dish in the menu.
“Kalakand is Tabu’s gift to the menu. Else we only had two items —pantua and payesh,” says Mana.
The meals are painstakingly prepared in Anupama’s kitchen and go the traditional way in using only mustard oil and the panch phoran (the five-spice blend used most often in Bengali food and boast of five flavours).
“What we eat is what we serve. Hence, we prefer Dabbas. It keeps it simple for me,” adds Mana.
It is not just passion that has fuelled this idea, but the need for additional income for Mana during a tough time.
“I used to work as a cook in select people’s homes before the lockdown was announced. I was away in Kolkata during that time. When I came back, these additional jobs had gone,” says Mana.
“All the housing societies had stopped the entry of cooks and house helps. And to me, it was a security hazard — for her and for us. She’s my housekeeper, but her additional source of income was not there. So I suggested that she start a food service, and I helped finance it,” says Anupama.
She credits the birth of the kitchen to Siddharth, her khaane aur gaaney ke dost, ex-RJ and writer of RangBaaz.
“It was a random rant with him how I would love to start a Dabba Service for Mana Di to help her get some pin money. And that this might be the best time to do so,” says Anupama.
A few weeks later, he called up to check the progress on that front. He said his cook had gone home during the lockdown and he was quite sick of trying to cook while working and also fed up of his own haath ka khana. His Dabba dilemma was a good enough reason for Mana and Anupama to give this idea a serious thought.
“He has always loved my food, so he felt this might be a damn good solution to his LunchBox. And that’s how this Kitchen was born,” avers Mana.
The Kitchen is still a Dabba Service at heart. That’s why Mana Mashir Ghorua (or home-cooked) Ranna – it is “hamare ghar ka khana” that lands up on your plate!
“Calling it a Dabba will be quite an understatement. It’s an experience which one would not like to miss — especially in these challenging times — when most of us are devoid of love, care and amazing home-cooked food. Mana Maashir Ghorua Ranna is the perfect mix of all three,” adds Siddharth.
Apart from word-of-mouth, Anupama relied on WhatsApp, and social media for promotions. It was an Instagram post by Shifa Maitra, Creative Consultant & Creative Lead – Brands & Stories, that caught Tabu’s attention.
Tabu was quick to comment and that’s how she discovered Mana Mashi. Mana is called Mana Di by Anupama, Mana Mashi by her children, and customers, irrespective of their age.
A non-Bengali foodie, Shifa adds on, “Mana Mashi’s food makes you feel like you’re being fed by a favourite aunt. The portions are huge, the spices just right and little touches like chutney add so much to the experience. She has instantly become a warm space!”
“I started with circulating the menu to my friends over WhatsApp and posting updates on my social media handles. The response was overwhelming, and orders started pouring in, and on some days, it goes into double digits,” says Anupama.
“We had to decide on a cut-off time for accepting orders for next day even though we end up accepting late-night demands at times,” confirms Mana.
The delicacies not only cater to the food-loving Bengalis, but also include a sizeable chunk of those who want to treat themselves to quintessentially Bengali meals anywhere in Mumbai.
Senior film journalist and critic Namrata Joshi lovingly says, “Mana Mashir’s Ghorua Ranna is Anupama’s best contribution in saving the hungry humankind of Mumbai. Joy Bimal Roy and Anupama are my go-to people for Bong food in Mumbai.”
Namrata happened to feast on Khichuri Thali with bhaja, labra, tamatar chutney and rosogullar payesh to the first day of Mahalaya on September 17, and she looks forward to digging into what she calls Bengali Sadya on Sundays, without fail.
Aar maash ends today on October 16. The real treat starts tomorrow.
Author, artist, poet and filmmaker Devashish Makhija, who was born and raised in Kolkata, is looking forward to beginning the celebrations on an auspicious note with Maana Mashir’s Ghorua Ranna.
Devashish says, “It brings me this tsunami of taste memories from all those times in my childhood when I have been drowned in the deliciousness of poojo barir khaowar in my growing up years in Calcutta.”
The pujor menu tugs at his heartstrings. With nostalgia filling his voice, Devashish reminisces, “I sorely missed the heady flavours of that particular kind of Bengali cooking that is drenched in delectable tradition, and yet has the warm touch of someone’s Maa who may have cooked it for sheer joy. Mana Mashi’s food has both those magic ingredients then — tradition and joy. She takes me back to the baari pujos of Calcutta!”
Anupama started using the hashtag #MKP, and friends started asking us what is that? Ma-Ka-Pyaar (remember Quick Gun Murugun?) Well! She modified it to Mana Mashi Ka Pyaar.
“The number of orders is growing every week. It only reflects how people are lovin’ it. The taste of meals prepared with motherly love is what sets us apart,” quips Mana.
It pretty much lives up to the name given to the home chef service by the young members of the Anupama household.
Anupama’s dancer and actor son Achintya, who has literally grown up on Mana’s lip-smacking Bengali fare, and his co-dancer Jyoti (who was her house guest all through the lockdown) vetoed in favour of this name as “it sums up the flavour and highlights its USP, Mana-Mashi-Ke-Haath-Ka-Khana.”
Actor Shalini Vats and her writer husband Himanshu Tyagi couldn’t agree more with it. While Himanshu says, “Mana Mashi’s food is ghar ka khana, or even better than that, cooked in a different kitchen,” his wife, who hails from Patna, adds, “Mana Di’s food is childhood for me – the food of my grandmother and mother. It is all about home and heart.”
Film producer Rabia Chopra, who has been one of Mana’s oldest client from the days she was setting up her home in Mumbai many moons ago, goes on to echo their sentiments.
“Mana Di serves you with a lot of love. If you don’t polish your plate, then ek thappad will also come flying at you! It’s mummy ke haath ka khana! Period! Youngsters who miss their mom’s food, Mana Di is the answer to your prayers! Food has to be cooked and served with joy, she doesn’t know any other way,” says Rabia Chopra.
The food is delivered by the Kitchen’s delivery boy, and Mana Mashi accepts payments via Phone Pe and Wire Transfers.
The Kitchen boasts of a wide variety of fish items with Bhapa Ilish (steamed Hilsa cooked and wrapped in banana leaf) being the most sought-after dish; one variety rolled in arbi ka patta is another special item from Mana Mashi.
The menu is meticulously planned by Anupama and Mana, keeping in mind the seasonality and availability of the raw materials, especially for curries made with vegetables.
Traditionally, Bengali cuisine involves a gourmet journey from the bitter to the sweet (a feat which is reserved for only those who order specifically). But Mana Mashi plans to do it course-wise.
“The Poshto or the extra non-vegetarian items are prepared on-demand, so fish and meat are procured depending on the order received. We sincerely believe that right ingredient gives the dish or curry that authentic taste — so sourcing is important,” feels Mana.
What sets their service apart from others is a helping of chutney, and every order gets it as complimentary.
“A customer is spoilt for choice. We recently served Plastic Chutney, also known as Pepe-r chutney. Prepared from raw papaya, it looks like melted plastic and hence the name,” Mana adds.
The chutney is also sold in 200 gms jar at Rs 500 per bottle. The delectable range includes pineapple chutney, plastic chutney, tomato-r jhaal-mishti chutney, tomato khejur-er chutney, amra-r tok, aam-er tok and mowrala maach-er tok.
“The food adventure is an ongoing process! We are still experimenting!” says Anupama.
Another highlight is their ultra-careful packaging so that not even a drop spills over because a leaky packet spoils the food and also the fun.
“Achintya often jokes that my packaging matches the perfection of Movers and Packers,” says Anupama.
Writer Radhika Anand calls Mashi a magician. “She weaves her wand over spices and meat and curries and voila! you get potfuls of the tastiest love and the loveliest taste,” says Radhika.
Namrata also adds a delectable reason — “Enjoy the food at Mana Mashir’s Ghorua Ranna to please Mata Rani.”
So if you are in Mumbai and craving for maa-ke-haath-ka-khana, Mana Mashir’s Ghorua Ranna is your go-to-home chef this festive season.
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Shillpi is a New Delhi-based freelance journalist, who mostly writes to while away her time and, at times, to explore the devilry of her idle mind, on anything and everything that tickles her grey matter.