Gujarati chef Helly Raichura challenges stereotypes of Indian cuisine
— Discover the comfort of Indian home cooking with Adam D’Sylva, Helly Raichura and Sandeep Pandit on India unplated, Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. on SBS Food and streaming on SBS On Demand. Visit the program page for recipes, articles and more. —
Westerners can limit their experience of Indian cuisine by sticking to popular dishes like butter chicken, tandoori, and tikka masala. But chief and India unplated Co-host Helly Raichura is determined to redefine the taste of a plate of Indian cuisine. His Victoria-based company Enter Via Laundry organizes in-home dining experiences that bring together influences and flavors from various parts of India.
Raichura’s personal culinary journey began in Ahmedabad, Gujrat, a state in western India, where she belonged to a Vaishnav community.
“The food was the highlight of the day for me,” says Raichura. “When I look back, I feel like we have been extremely spoiled, and I feel lucky to have grown up in a household that celebrated good cooking.”
Sitting together for dinner was a tradition in her family and a time to cherish the delicious food her mother had prepared. Most nights this included a platter of basic vegetarian Gujarati dishes, such as chole bhature, khichdi, and bharthu, followed by a glass of chaas.
“When I was allowed into the kitchen in my early teens, I was given the responsibility of doing the prep work,” Raichura recalls. “My brother and I would help mom soak rice or dahls, cut vegetables or make dough. We weren’t allowed to cook anything, just to watch.”
Over the years Raichura’s love for cooking grew and she dreamed of pursuing a career in food. However, her parents encouraged her to move abroad to study at university. This brought Raichura to Australia in 2007, where she obtained an undergraduate degree and worked as a human resources consultant for the next decade.
Raichura’s passion for food has remained strong throughout these years, and the extra time during her first maternity leave led her to start a small cake business. The excitement of this quickly faded as she discovered that customers were more focused on the aesthetics than the flavors of her creations. This prompted Raichura to seek new ways to express his passion and this is how Enter Via Laundry was born.
Initially, Enter Via Laundry was just a hobby and an opportunity for Raichura to cook for his family and friends. She served dishes from different cuisines and just sought to recreate the atmosphere of family reunions and celebrations at home.
Inspired to find out more, Raichura sought the tutelage of Gaggan Anand, owner of the now-closed Michelin-starred Bangkok restaurant Gaggan, and Shaun Quade of Melbourne’s Lûmé. These professional kitchens taught him the discipline and the importance of making each class a theatrical experience. They also encouraged her to experiment with new ingredients and challenged her technical skills.
The first dish Raichura tried and which defined the future of Enter Via Laundry was khandvi. These so-called silky pancakes made with a dough made from chickpea flour were her favorite snack growing up and something her maternal aunt made on special occasions. Raichura was drawn to the level of difficulty required to prepare khandvi and was delighted to present a more technical side to Indian cuisine.
Khandvi is now Enter Via Laundry’s signature dish and has helped shape the message of its menu.
“Indian cuisine was not represented as it should be, so I went from cooking everything I learned to cooking only Indian,” she explains. “It was more about letting me cook what is authentic and being able to showcase and share the heritage, influence and culture of Indian cuisine, rather than just being commercially viable.”
“It was more about letting me cook what is authentic and being able to showcase and share the heritage, influence and culture of Indian cuisine.”
The Enter Via Laundry menu is constantly evolving, as is Indian cuisine. Raichura uses ancient techniques and recipes and combines them with native Australian products like lemon myrtle and limes.
“At the moment, I’m just immersed and enjoying every moment of learning the history and variety of the hyper-regional cuisines at home,” she says. “Indian cuisine is so vast; she’s so versatile, and she can still evolve and make room for many different ingredients and natives. “
Raichura dreams of opening a cooking school where she can pass on these centuries-old techniques and educate people about the rich history of Indian cuisine. In the meantime, her children are happy students and she likes them to be curious about their heritage and interested in keeping these traditions alive.
Do you like history? Follow author Melissa Woodley here: Instagram @sporkdiaries.
Photographs provided by Helly Raichura