--- Discover the comforts of Indian home cooking with Adam D'Sylva, Helly Raichura and Sandeep Pandit on India Unplated, Thursdays 8.00pm on SBS Food and streaming on SBS On Demand. Visit the program page for recipes, articles and more. ---
People in the west can limit their experience of Indian cuisine by sticking to popular dishes like butter chicken, tandoori and tikka masala. But chef and India Unplated co-host Helly Raichura is determined to redefine what a plate of Indian food tastes like. Her business Enter Via Laundry, based in Victoria, hosts curated, home-dining experiences that bring together influences and flavours from various regions of India.
Raichura's personal food journey began in Ahmedabad, Gujrat, a state in India's west, where she belonged to a Vaishnav community.
"Food was the highlight of the day for me," Raichura says. "When I look back, I feel we were extremely spoiled, and I feel lucky that I grew up in a household that celebrated good eating."
Sitting together for dinner was tradition in her family and a time to cherish the delicious food her mother had prepared. Most nights this included a platter of staple, vegetarian Gujarati dishes, such as chole bhature, khichdi and bharthu, followed by a glass of chaas.
"When I was allowed in the kitchen in my very early teens, I was given the responsibility of getting the prep work done," Raichura recalls. "Me and my brother would help mum with soaking rice or dahls or cutting vegetables or getting the dough ready. We were not allowed to actually cook anything, just to observe."
Over the years, Raichura's love for cooking grew and she dreamt of pursuing a career in food. However, her parents encouraged her to move overseas to study at university. This brought Raichura to Australia in 2007 where she completed an undergraduate degree and worked as a human resources adviser over the following decade.
Raichura's passion for food remained strong throughout these years, and extra time during her first maternity leave led her to start a small cake business. The excitement of this quickly wore off as she found customers were more focused on the aesthetics than the flavours of her creations. This prompted Raichura to look for new ways to express her passion and thus, Enter Via Laundry was born.
Initially, Enter Via Laundry was just a hobby and an opportunity for Raichura to cook for family and friends. She was serving food from a variety of cuisines and simply looking to recreate the atmosphere of family gatherings and celebrations back home.
Inspired to learn more, Raichura sought out the tutelage of Gaggan Anand, owner of now closed Michelin-star Bangkok restaurant Gaggan, and Shaun Quade of Melbourne's Lûmé. These professional kitchens taught her discipline and the importance of making each course a theatrical experience. They also encouraged her to experiment with new ingredients and challenged her technical skills.
The first dish Raichura attempted and which defined the future of Enter Via Laundry was khandvi. These silky so-called crepes made with a chickpea-flour batter were her favourite snack growing up and something her maternal aunt made on special occasions. Raichura was attracted to the level of difficulty required to make khandvi and was excited to showcase a more technical side of Indian cuisine.
Khandvi is now Enter Via Laundry's signature dish and helped shape the message of its menu.
"Indian cuisine wasn't being represented the way it should be, so I pivoted from cooking everything that I learned to cooking only Indian," she explains. "It was more about letting me cook what is authentic and so that I could showcase and share the heritage, influence and culture of Indian cuisine, rather than just about being commercially viable."
"It was more about letting me cook what is authentic and so that I could showcase and share the heritage, influence and culture of Indian cuisine."
The menu at Enter Via Laundry is constantly evolving, just like Indian cuisine. Raichura takes ancient techniques and recipes and combines them with native Australian produce like lemon myrtle and finger limes.
"Right now, I'm just immersed and enjoying every bit of learning the history and the variety of hyper-regional cuisines back home," she says. "Indian cuisine is so broad; it is so versatile, and it can still evolve and make way for a lot of different ingredients and natives."
Raichura dreams of opening a cooking school where she can pass on these age-old techniques and educate people on the rich history of Indian food. In the meantime, her children are happy students and she loves that they are curious to learn about their heritage and interested in keeping these traditions alive.
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Photographs supplied by Helly Raichura