Provisioning During a Pandemic

Gourmet ingredient delivery around India

Originally published in India Today.

Burrata from Flanders Dairy, greens and fruit from Krishi Cress.

Not too long ago, “gourmet” was synonymous with imported. Foreign products occupied the shelves of our loftier kirana dukaans, bearing unheard-of brand names and amusing MRPs.

Still, with international shipping curtailed through the lockdown, India’s gourmands might have felt their absence. (But maybe not; a chef friend recently received a gloriously plump, vacuum-sealed Christmas duck, borne across the Atlantic in a cargo ship as a promotion. Lucky duck.)

Thankfully, hipster entrepreneurship has also arrived in India, along virtual channels of international exchange. Producers have adopted organic, family-owned, delivery-driven models, adapted them with swadeshi flair, and promoted them vocally locally, which means gastronomes in our major metros have access to a range of homegrown gourmet ingredients and staples.

The holy triumvirate of caffeine, carbs and cheese are at the forefront of these offerings. Let’s start with coffee. Brands like Araku, Bili Hu, Black Baza, Blue Tokai, Devan’s and Koinonia are available online, with the last also selling cheese, snacks, chocolate, and tonic made by like-minded companies from its website. This kind of platform-sharing collaboration is on the rise, with vegetable growers expanding into general grocery, and coffee roasters selling bread.

Next, bread. Budding bakers, check out Urban Platter for yeast (and lots more), and TWF for fancy flour. If slicing is the maximum effort you want to put into your loaf though, there are plenty of great bread suppliers: Milk Patisserie, Suchali’s Bakehouse, The Flourists, and Bombay Food Company to name a few.

Fact: cheese improves all food. Fortunately, everything from burrata to yak cheese is online, from companies like Spotted Cow and Eleftheria in Mumbai, Begum Victoria in Bangalore, Flanders Dairy in Delhi, ABC in Pune, Darima, La Ferme, and Kodai Cheese. Charcuterie is a bit more elusive, with meat more difficult procure in some places, but brands like Artisan Meats and Kaavo cover sausage requirements, while sites like Licious, Fresh2Home, Meatigo are slowly adding to their imported and local poultry, seafood, and red meat stocks.

Amazon, Zomato, Nature’s Basket and similar services also list gourmet foods, but we’d recommend buying from brand websites wherever possible to more easily clear up potential delivery issues. In Bombay, Scootsy has a separate gourmet section with things like dry staples from Conscious Foods and oils from Cold Food Company. For incorrigible epicures, it has La Rustichella, specialising in all things truffled.

Meanwhile organic/pesticide-free produce suppliers have mushroomed. The Farmer, Go Farmz, Kisano, Krishi Cress, Nature’s Soul, ninjacart, Prodigal Farms, Sahyadri, Zama Organics, and 21 Organic are among the businesses who’ve hoed a tough row to stay in business. Experiments with canning, freezing and fermenting mean that small-scale farmers also often sell dips, probiotic drinks, and pickles.

Finally, as restaurants pivot to delivery, condiments, sauces and prepped ingredients are the name of the game. In Delhi, Fig & Maple has a line of “Signatures”, Parsi-food specialist Rustom’s is marketing its masalas, Caara has farm and meal boxes, and Aku’s has DIY burger kits. There are even bars doing batched cocktails in aging barrels. But you’ve got to know a guy.

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