In the Kitchen with The Curry Brothers

They’re serving up a storm of rasam risottos and kaldeen khowsuey, using locally-sourced ingredients, and effortlessly combining Indian culinary traditions with the finesse of French gastronomy. Joshua D’Souza, Neha Manekia, and Auroni Mookerjee are the trio behind The Curry Brothers (and sister!), an Indian kitchen, delivery service, and sometimes pop-up that is quickly becoming a favourite dabba option for hungry Mumbaikars.

A graduate of the Indian Institute of Hotel Management, Goa, Joshua started his career in food at the kitchen at the Taj Fort Aguada Beach Resort. He has since worked with Michelin Star chefs across Bahrain and Dubai, and in 2011, co-founded Silverspoon Gourmet, a fine dining catering and dining service in Lower Parel. His wife and co-founder, Neha Manekia has a degree in Psychology and Human Resources, and worked for a Mumbai theatre company, travelling extensively across the US, before switching tracks and joining The Ritz-Carlton in California. Their third partner, Auroni, ate his first fish head at the age of three. At ten he sipped his first Islay malt, at 23 he was roasting pig heads, and by 24, running his first dabba service. Though an ad-man by profession, Auroni has always been a foodie, first and foremost.

They take the Nico Q&A, sharing everything from the story behind their name, to the extent to which they will go for the perfect aioli.
Tell us about the inspiration behind The Curry Brothers?
The inspiration was simple – we wanted to feed people good, honest, regional food, but without that ‘special restaurant touch’. Not to say that we don’t experiment or try new things. We serve our rasam-rice as a risotto. We pair Goan Kaldeen with Rice Vermicelli to give you Khaosuey. But that being said, we wanted to remain true to the traditions and flavours of home cooking (which is where most of India’s best cuisines have evolved). We’d noticed that eating out, especially regional Indian cuisines, had become a rather inauthentic experience. The food served is rich and over-spiced, the ingredients are rarely fresh, seasonal or local; but most importantly the food has no soul. We wanted to help our diners to eats soulful food again, the kind our mums and grandmas feed/ fed us. It is after all the most genuine and wholehearted expression of cooking we’ll ever experience.

How did The Curry Brothers get its name?
We’d enlisted the help of our really good friends and fellow foodies, Akshay and Pragnya, to help out with our food styling, branding and design collateral, and when we talked about the name, one of the first things that came up was the fact that our kitchen was next to the Currey Road Station in Parel. Since we were setting up a brand that dished out regional Indian cuisine, the obvious choice was the The Currey Road Kitchen. But we felt with a name like that people would expect to dine at a physical location and not delivery. That’s when Akshay suddenly exclaimed – you guys are two bearded chefs looking to start a curry house of sorts. Wouldn’t that make you the Curry Brothers? The moment we heard him say that, we knew we were on to something.

Biggest challenge of running a Delivery and catering service in Mumbai?
Balancing business demands and market realities with our extremely unorthodox ways is probably our greatest challenge. Add to that, unlike restaurants, our business model has far less of a routine or schedule. There are no fixed lunch and dinner services, there are no waiters pacing the orders or acting as a buffer between the kitchen and front of house. That means turning around orders or events on short notice can be a nightmare, especially keeping in mind our commitment to using home techniques and quality ingredients. For example, while most kitchens are happy to have frozen fish delivered to their kitchens, someone from our kitchen personally goes and picks out all the fish that we use. We also make sure to clean, butcher and portion every fish in-house. It takes our butcher a week to make us just a few kilos of Goan Sausage (we developed our own version with him) for our choriz pulao and pav, so for larger orders if we don’t give him enough notice, we don’t get any sausage. It’s the same story with our signature cocktail – the Gondhoraaj Margarita. The limes that we use to make it are local to East India and have to be flown down from Kolkata. We could use commercially made sausage or regular limes, but to us authenticity, flavour and quality come first.
Who are your culinary inspirations?
Joshua: One of my first executive chefs – Jackisch Holger – he was truly encouraging and promoted me twice in the same year, even though I was very young. Also, a big fan of Gordon Ramsay and Ferran Adria.
Neha: Joshua, as before I met him, I was far more interested in the business and administrative side of the hospitality business as opposed to the kitchen.
Auroni: Since I’m mostly self-taught, I’d have to say my grandmum has to be my greatest culinary inspiration. All that time spent with her in the kitchen and markets was priceless. Then there are my culinary mentors Viraf and Prakriti Patel from Café Zoe. Lastly, I keep up with everything Fergus Henderson and Gaggan Anand. While both are radically different as chefs they’re both extremely rooted in tradition, and love all things meaty.

Favourite ingredients to cook with?
Joshua: Butter!
Neha: Vanilla bean.
Auroni: Mustard oil and bone marrow.

Worst kitchen disaster?
One really hot evening we had to make a huge order of our mustard oil aioli, but every batch we made split. We just didn’t know what to do, that was until we spent the entire evening locked inside our walk-in freezer, whisking out batch after batch of perfect aioli. Usually chefs risk fires and sharp knives, we had to risk frostbite to get this job done!
Top tips for new chefs?
Flavour always come first, then everything else.

Your go-to comfort food?
Joshua: Neha’s mom’s Biryani and Hardee’s Hamburgers.
Neha: Daal khichdi.
Auroni: Mangsho’r Jhol – Bhaat and Breakfast Sausages from Pigpo, Jorbagh.

The perfect meal?
Joshua: Flawlessly steamed salmon.
Neha: A medium-rare steak with mash and steamed veggies.
Auroni: The one I hope I’ll cook for Fergus Henderson.

Mumbai dining secrets?
The best food in Bombay is not cooked by a restaurant professional, but all on the streets. Every neighbourhood has a great vada-pav, pani-puri, keema–pav, bombil fry, dosa, chutney-cheese toast... make sure to seek them out.

Bombay, in three words:
Joshua: The Big Hustle
Neha: Soul. Chaos. Family.
Auroni: Money, Money, Money.

The Curry Brother's give us a sampler of their Crab Moilee, here.