Chitra Agrawal & Ben Garthus
Producing small-batch achaar, also known as Indian Pickles - a relish made from vegetables and fruits with chilies, spices and oil - this is India's equivalent to Sriracha, harissa, or kimchi. Made in Crown Heights, Brooklyn Delhi is led by a food-loving couple - she a cookbook author and he a sculptor and designer - who together have created a delightful and flavorful product, packaged in a modern and approachable brand.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
From a young age, I’ve had an obsession with achaar, a spicy Indian condiment made from local fruits or vegetables, oil, spices and chili peppers. After realizing that there were no brands selling a variety with a homemade flavor that was not packed with salt and artificial preservatives, I started making my own using produce from my weekly farm share. I started making achaar from heirloom tomatoes, rhubarb, green gooseberries and garlic and started serving it to my cooking students and at my pop-up dinners. It wasn’t until I met my husband Ben, who is a food packaging designer, that we created Brooklyn Delhi to start selling my recipes on a larger scale.
Tell us about your products.
We make innovative achaars inspired by local produce. Achaar is a staple in every Indian home used to sparingly to add a punch of flavor to every meal. It’s spicy, sour, sweet, savory and very addictive! Right now we make tomato, rhubarb ginger and roasted garlic achaars.
Why do you believe in small-batch products?
They have heart and of course the flavors. I hope someday small-batch foods will replace all of the mass-produced junk that’s on store shelves right now, much of which is literally toxic for us.
What makes your product better than the their mass produced counterparts?
Firstly, the taste! Our products have a homemade flavor, less salt, no preservatives or additives (and that means no citric acid or acetic acid), healthier oils and local farm produce.
What is your favorite small-batch treat?
Nunu Chocolates Hand-Dipped Salt Caramels.
What Drew You To Food?
I grew up in a home that revolved around food, but it wasn’t until 2009 that I started documenting my family’s vegetarian recipes from India with a slant on local agriculture on my blog, The ABCDs of Cooking. As my passion grew, I started teaching classes, selling food at markets and hosting pop-up dinners and before long I was hooked. Brooklyn Delhi and my upcoming cookbook Vibrant India (Penguin Random House, March 2017) - pre order here! - reflect what I have learned over the years.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
My family and my local farmers.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
My lips are sealed.
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
Don’t ask me to pick between my babies☺
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
Curry leaves, now and forever
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
Home cooked meal by my cousin in the UK of rice, sambar, South Indian lentil stew made with drumstick, a fibrous Indian vegetable, and avial, a coconut curry with mango and plantain.
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
My grandmother who passed away just before I launched Brooklyn Delhi.
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other artisans?
Best advice – Focus! My advice – If you’ve discovered you have a passion for food, you must pursue it wholeheartedly or you may regret it later.
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
My grandmother’s puri (fried bread), mattar paneer, aloo gobi, and dahi vada.
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
Moghul in Edison, NJ
What Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
I love my friends and try to see them as much as I can when not working.
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?
Not the most exciting, but I actually like silence when I’m cooking. I feel like I can really devote all of my energy to what I’m making.
What is your favorite recipe to make with the product featured in our basket?
At home, we literally use tomato achaar at every meal – on breakfast tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches, on soups with a dollop of yogurt, or the traditional route with rice and dal or curry.