SPICE GIRLS

Amrita Prasad
Thursday, 7 March 2019

Cafe Junyali offers a unique concept where they are promoting exotic handmade masalas, and also empowering women by employing them

Without a doubt, Indian masalas can be called the heart and soul of the Indian kitchen, because without the spices Indian food loses its charm. Every masala has its own unique flavour and aroma, and when these masalas are combined in the right proportion and the right way, they create a melange of flavours that lends a sensory delight. 

Although Indian masalas which are used in day-to-day cooking are commonly found in the marketplace, some masalas are rare, ancient, and their recipes have been passed down from one generation to the next. Sadly, some ancient recipes are lost. Cafe Junyali, an online platform (www.cafejunyali.com) also having stores at select places, is trying to revive traditional Indian masala blends by asking women to prepare them. By doing so, they are also making women financially independent.
 
Founded by Charulata Moorjani, Cafe Junyali is an initiative by HariDevka Foundation and aims at giving back to society and empowering women. The founder comes from a place called Junyali in Mussoorie which means moonlit in Pahadi language.  

Radhika Kulkarni, who looks after digital marketing and PR for the cafe, says the idea was born with an intention of reviving ancient masala blends and also provide women a platform to earn a livelihood and lead a dignified life. “Still a lot of women in India, both in the lower and upper strata of society and in rural and urban India, aren’t financially independent. Even if they want to step out of their home, they have to ‘ask’ someone. For them to gain financial independence is a big thing. Since Indian masalas are common and used by all, and their demand is growing incredibly, the foundation thought of engaging these women to make masalas using ancient recipes, and also created a market for their product,” says Kulkarni. 
 
However, they do not make generic masalas or masalas that are commonly available. Moorjani thought of making exclusive and exotic spices which would connect one to one’s roots and define family traditions. Cafe Junyali is packaging, modelling, branding and helping these women sell the masala blends. “To keep it exclusive and not make it so commercial, our masalas are available at select stores and places such as Local at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai; Godrej Nature’s Basket across outlets; and Andaz by Hotel Hyatt, Delhi,” informs Kulkarni.
  
The masalas have beeen sourced from different parts of India, prepared by women from various regions including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Meerut — offering a potpourri of cultures. “The blend of these spices are inspired from their family traditions and hand pounded and homemade after being sourced from their natural habitat. The women who make these spice blends now have their own teams who procure the raw spices and hand pound it into their unique recipes thus making the women entrepreneurs in their own right. The women have been homemakers and never really tasted financial freedom, but with Cafe Junyali, they can and they are also able to present their secret family recipes to the world,” says Kulkarni. 
 
The spice blends are used in tea, khichdi, vegetables and/or meats. Some of the blends that are being sold are Chai Ka Masala, East Godavari Masala, Khichdi Ka Masala, Punjabi Chana and Kaali Dal Masala, Sifar Masala, Jass Masala and Shahe Nawab Masala.

The masala makers  
Devabai Kumawat — Khichdi Ka Masala
Devabai Kumawat’s Khichdi Ka Masala reminds you of ‘mom’s food.’ You’ll taste love in every bite as this spice blend is hand pounded on the western edge of the Deccan Plateau in Nashik. You can add the spice blend to your lentils and rice. You can also add dry or fresh grated coconut while cooking.

Anisha Lala — Sifar Masala
Sifar in Sindhi means punctuation. Anisha Lala’s spice blend punctuates vegetarian cooking. Her spice brings a taste from the culinary kitchens of forgotten tribes of the Sind region.

Kishni Hingorani — Jass Masala
Straight from the age old diaries, Kishni Hingorani has brought down this blend from her ancestors’ papyrus pages — a spice blend that’s meant for seasoning of vegetarian dishes and lentil recipes. In Sindhi, Jass means magic, so add this spice blend to create magic in your food.  

Bindumathi Devi Tata — East Godavari Masala
Bindumathi Devi Tata from the banks of the Godavari meticulously blends and pounds cloves, cinnamon, khuskhus, nutmeg, using her family’s secret recipe to create a sensational taste while reciting tales of the holy Godavari river. Her spice blend enhances the taste of aubergine, potatoes, meats, fish and biryani.

Kanan Saraswat — Chai Ka Masala
Kanan Saraswat, whose ancestors belonged to Meerut, re-invented her family recipe as she travelled the length and breadth of the country. The perfect balance of spices hand pounded at her home in Gwalior Fort, is bound to give you that ‘extra’ zing. A shortcut for you to make a truly Indian Masala Chai.

Renu Moorjani — Nawab Shah
Renu Moorjani’s spice is a secret blend of the Moorjani clan. The name ‘Nawab Shah’ is derived from the roots of the Moorjani forefathers. Throw in a dash of taste from the Sind dynasties and walk down the trodden paths, by adding it to your meats, fish and vegetarian dishes.

Vandana Malhotra — Punjabi Chana and Kaali Dal Masala
Vandana Malhotra’s spice recipes brings in the taste of Multan. Using her special age-old family spice blend in lentils, pulses, cottage cheese and chickpeas cooked in clarified butter can give you a gastronomic euphoria. You can also use her secret as a  seasoning on yoghurt.

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