It keeps getting oven better and better!
“Cooking has always brought happiness to me,” Aruna Pawa tells me as she greets me with a smile and a plate of pre-stuffed and eminently delicious pani puri shells. “Growing up, our weekends were always filled with delicious food, and cooking together and cooking for our kids was a way of life — it was at the centre of our family gatherings and part of what inspired me to embark on this path.”
When tragedy struck and her husband passed away in 2022, it was this source of happiness that gave her a glimmer of comfort in the long days thence: “I was suddenly presented with several hours each day to do whatever I chose,” she recalled. “I couldn’t resist pursuing and sharing my passion for cooking. With the urging of my children, Nani’s Rasoi was born!
As she walks me through her ever-changing menus, she tells me, “I enjoy cooking classic Thai and Indian flavours, with my own twists, and I present a new menu each week. Through my love of experimenting with new dishes, one of my specialties, Gaeng thai paneer was born, and it has been a big hit.”
As I shamelessly tuck into her heartwarming recipes, I’m whisked away to the halcyon days when I’d eat on my grandmother’s knee, despite the dishes being different from those of my childhood; and she tells me with a smile, “I love flavours that will remind you of your grandma’s cooking. Simple yet satisfying, and packed with traditional spices such as ginger and garlic. I want people to feel comforted by my food, like it came straight out of their own kitchen.” As for advice to other aspiring chefs? She says, “Follow your dreams with passion and courage. Don’t be afraid to take the first step. You don’t have to know all the answers; the important thing is to start and keep learning and adapting as you go. As my favourite quote from Thomas Keller goes, ‘A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.’”
GAENG THAI PANEER
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp red curry paste
- 1 cup thick coconut milk
- 3 cups bamboo shoots
- 1 cup mushrooms
- 1 cup paneer
- ½ cup water and ½ cup coconut milk
- basil leaves and chillis for garnish
- Heat the oil in a pan.
- Add the curry paste, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms and let it simmer for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the paneer, then slowly add the mix of water and coconut milk until the curry achieves the consistency you desire.
- Pour it into a bowl and garnish with basil leaves and chillis. Serve hot, with a plate of rice or rotis.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
- ½ cup of oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 2 cups corn
- 1 cup French beans, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp Thai curry paste
- 3-4 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
- Mix the flour, corn starch, corn, beans, curry paste, and Thai kaffir lime leaves in a bowl. It should achieve a slightly sticky consistency, but if it is too dry, add a little water.
- Divide it into small balls, then flatten.
- Deep fry the balls in oil for 1 minute.
- Serve hot.