The feisty 65-year-old Sandhya Kriplani started a food blog called Araj, during the pandemic to spread her love for and awareness about Sindhi food. With a cloud kitchen in Bandra, Mumbai, she caters to those who are fond of special Sindhi mithais. “I have a degree in fine arts from Mumbai. I haven’t had any training in culinary arts per de, but I’ve been cooking for my family over the years. I started my brand of Indian sweets, Araj, last year soon after the pandemic started,” she says when asked about her foray into the culinary world. Here, Kriplani, or Sandy as she is fondly called by her family and friends, gives a glimpse of her blog, her kitchen, and more. Excerpts:
Who introduced you to cooking?
Both my mother and mother-in-law were passionate about the food they cooked for their family and loved ones. And I guess that’s how I started enjoying cooking after seeing the joy on the faces of a well-fed family.
What prompted you to start a blog?
I always wanted to do something on my own but my responsibilities kept me preoccupied so I never really get the chance. I started Araj when the pandemic hit and everyone became overly cautious about where they were sourcing their food from. It started as a passion and is growing slowly into a source of income.
What is your culinary expertise?
I specialise in traditional Sindhi cuisine especially Meetha Lolas. It’s a traditional Sindhi sweet that we eat during Thadri (a Sindhi festival). But my best-selling mithai would have to be Kaju mithai. Everyone loves it; I custom-make it in cubes, modaks, laddoos and even cakes. Everyone is willing to indulge in sweet treats for themselves and even to gift their loved ones.
ALSO READFoodie Trail: 'I deviated from conventional recipes and followed my instincts', says food blogger...
Who encouraged you to start the business?
My initial push was from my older daughter, Priya. My younger daughter, Ishita, and I were extremely apprehensive. But Priya did her best to convince us and that’s mainly why we are here today, doing our best every day.
Do you remember the day you received your first big order?
I remember it clearly. It was during Ganpati last year, a month after we started taking orders. I was super nervous and yet over the moon. I didn’t have the bandwidth, but thanks to the push from my loved ones, I accepted it and it was all hands on the deck then. As soon as the order was completed, it felt like we had won a war.
Any memorable foodie experience you would like to share?
During parties and weddings, I feel overwhelmed to see so many people relishing my food. Another thing that brings a smile to my face is when people order mithais to send to their families in different parts of the world. I’m here, but my work is going global.
Instagram and word of mouth helped us get new customers and an uptick in business. It’s a slow process, but I know it will be worth it in the long run.
Basmati Rice — 1/2 cup
Water — 1 cup
Warm Milk — 1 tbsp
Saffron — 10 to 15 strands
Sugar — 1/2 cup
Ghee — 1/4 cup
Cardamom — 4 to 6 pieces
Cloves — 6 pieces
Cashews — 8 pieces
Almonds — 8 pieces
A few raisins
Rinse the rice well and soak it in water for about an hour. While the rice is soaking, simultaneously soak the saffron in warm milk and slit the cashews and almonds. Heat 2 tbsp of ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the cashews, almonds and raisins and roast till they turn golden brown and keep them aside. In the same pan, add 2 tbsp of ghee and cloves and cardamom. Roast for a few minutes and keep them aside.
Now, pour water into the pan. Once the water starts to boil, add milk-soaked saffron followed by the soaked rice, remove the water completely and lower the flame. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 7 to 8 minutes till the rice is cooked.
Slowly, add the sugar in a sprinkling manner and mix gently. Cook till the sugar syrup dries and then add 2 to 3 tbsp of ghee. Once the liquid is soaked up, add in the roasted cashews, almonds and raisins and mix well. Serve hot or warm.