Ankita and Madhuri Sharma of Saffron Fix
Indian Comfort Food – Home Delivered
Forget sex, forget travel, the biggest fantasies people seem to have are about – Indian food! Yes, home-cooked comfort food just like mom made. The fantasy is to have such a meal whenever and wherever the urge arises – with minimal effort.
Well, that’ s a reality now thanks to Saffron Fix, a brand new creation by two entrepreneurs, Ankita Sharma and Madhuri Sharma (not related) who will have such a meal on your table with very little effort and you can still claim to be the chef! This meal-kit service specializes in Indian cuisine and says Madhuri, ” It delivers hard-to-find spices and top-of-the-line fresh, chopped ingredients to cook healthy and delicious Indian meals quickly, all in the comfort of your own home.”
Adds Ankita, “We will be providing fresh vegetables that we will chop before sending it to the customers. Our package is insulated and temperature controlled with ice-packs to preserve the freshness of the ingredients. We will also provide un-chopped ingredients if customers would rather do the chopping themselves for most of the recipes; the end-user has all the power.”
That there is a hunger for this concept is obvious from the fact that the duo, hoping to raise $10,000 on Kickstarter, were rewarded within days with more than they asked for -$13,761 – and still going strong.
Chicken Tikka Masala from Saffron Fix
Demystifying Curries and Masalas in Indian Food
Entrepreneurs are born every day and Ankita and Madhuri are proof of that. Ankita is pursuing a full-time MBA from NYU Stern School of Business while Madhuri is a freelance broadcast content producer specializing in food media, having been a tester for various companies including The Food Network.
As the two point out, Indian food has always been popular – but the preparation rather daunting: ”We offer a way to simplify the preparation in one’s own kitchen, and enjoy the same dishes many have come to love at Indian restaurants nation-wide. Our goal is to demystify the complexity of curries and masalas, demonstrating through easy-to-read recipe cards how simple it can be to prepare delicious Indian food.”
According to them, Saffron Fix offers simple recipes, cost and time efficiency via pre-measured and chopped ingredients delivered to your home, and fresh ingredients which ensure a tasty as well as nutritious meal since you know exactly what’s going into it.
“We have done all the leg-work to get this going but we need a certain number of pre-orders before we can place orders with our vendors of spices, packaging and shipping,” says Ankita. “We had planned to raise $10,000 worth of pre-orders to make that happen. But more importantly, we also can’t wait for people to try our boxes and cook some amazing food!”
Madhuri and Ankita prepare the ingredients in Saffron Fix
Ankita and Madhuri Sharma prepare the ingredients in Saffron Fix
Food IQ – 8 Questions for Ankita and Madhuri
- What are your childhood memories of Indian food – did you grow up in India where the food just appeared magically on the table, thanks to domestic help?
Growing up in India, I hardly paid attention to where the food appeared from. In fact, for that very reason, although I have always been a foodie, I never paid attention to how Indian food was cooked, where the ingredients came from and what spices went into what. Domestic helps make it so much easier. You mostly don’t get a lot of help while cooking in the US which makes it all the more challenging.
Being South Indian immigrants in the Silicon Valley, food was always a very important factor in maintaining our culture and heritage at home. I grew up eating Indian food for at least one meal a day, sometimes two if I had to bring leftovers for lunch. When I was sick, instead of chicken noodle soup I got garlic and pepper rasam! But even with a plethora of Indian stores around us, there was always a need to improvise. I remember my mom making bondhi raitha with Kix and using tortillas when she couldn’t find rotis. Their determination to reproduce these dishes from their past influenced me greatly, both as an individual as well as a chef.
- What got you interested in trying to turn this idea into a concrete business?
Ankita: It was only when I moved to the US, that I missed home food a lot and tried my hand at cooking for myself. It was such a challenge. I craved for Paneer Bhurji but there was no Paneer in the local grocery store. And once I ran out of spices that I brought from home, hunting for spices and buying expensive bottles of turmeric put me off from cooking Indian food. I started eating out more often, but also started feeling unhealthy because of the excessive oil and grease in the food at restaurants, even in a simple Indian sabzi.
Madhuri: While in culinary school I was appalled to see just how little even seasoned chefs knew about India food and flavors. I wanted to find a way to introduce that palate to people who may not have grown up eating Indian food. I realized that the biggest intimidation for them was not technique but finding the right ingredients.
Curry Cravings – Traditional & New Indo-American
3. Why do you think there is such a need here in the US for this?
We realize that making Indian food at home is no simple task. Unlike Mexican, Asian or Italian, you cannot find these ingredients at your local grocery store or bodega. I believe that this will make Indian food more approachable for everyone.
Secondly, with the fast paced life that we all live here in the US, people are strapped for time. A trip has to be planned in advanced to procure the ingredients, carry them back and then start cooking. Saffron Fix is the solution to this problem. For the busy city dweller or the college student on a budget this is a fast and sustainable fix for their curry craving.
Finally, Indian cuisine is getting increasingly popular. Anyone interested in learning more about Indian cuisine will get intimidated by the thousands of links that show up after a Google search. Most of those websites are not easy to follow and don’t explain what each ingredient is for. Saffron Fix offers easy recipes and clear explanations to learn and understand Indian cooking in a fun way.
- Which are the recipes you’re planning to implement?
Right now we are focusing on some of the most popular dishes consumed at restaurants: Saag Paneer, Chicken Tikka Masala and Chole.
We have also included two items that translate all the Indian flavors into a more common format: Veggie Masala Burgers and Paneer Rolls (Burritos).
The idea is to show how you can apply the technique and flavors experienced in Indian cuisine into everyday cooking. Eventually after we launch we would love to highlight regional delicacies and continue to expand our “New Indo-American” menu items as well.
- What has been the response of family and friends – and strangers?
Our family and friends have been the biggest supporters. “What a great idea”, “Makes sense”, “I would use it” are all common reactions from friend family and even complete strangers. There seems to be a common understanding that there is a need for a product like this and now is the right time to do it.
A lot of our friends love Indian food, and are very intrigued by the various spices. They are very excited about this idea because now they can finally cook themselves some wonderful Indian food. We are excited too, because now if someone asks us to make them their favorite meal, we can tell them to just get Saffron Fix and make it themselves as well!
Veggie Masala Burger
- How is this different from the frozen food already available on the market?
Completely different! Sticking something in the microwave or eating take out can never compare to the experience of making a meal from scratch.
Frozen food is not an alternative to a fresh, healthy meal. It is unhealthy with usually very high content of saturated fats, sodium and preservatives. With our kit, you get fresh ingredients, chopped and measured, so that you can take a pan, some oil and salt, and have a healthy meal within as little as 30 minutes. The flavors and the freshness are incomparable. Also, you will actually have fun while cooking!
- What is your favorite success story with people who’ve tried Saffron Fix?
One of our great friends is married to an Indian girl. Having been raised in an American household, he had never so much as even tried Indian food before moving to New York. He wanted to surprise her on their anniversary by cooking a special Indian dinner. He was so excited when he heard about our project that he would’ve done anything to get his hands on one of our boxes.
He cooked her a Saffron Fix meal as a surprise. The meal was delicious, thanks to our easy recipe cards. She couldn’t believe that this guy who could barely cook himself scrambled eggs was able to make her an amazing dinner. Food is indeed the way to a person’s heart, man or a woman, and we just made that a whole lot easier!
Paneer Bhurji Rolls
Tips on Breaking the Restaurant Habit
8. What are your easy tips for people trying to cut the restaurant habit and cook healthy easily and quickly at home.
Prep! When you have the time on weekends or weeknights do all the chopping and cutting for the week. Play some music, drink some wine and make it an event! Later when you want to make a quick meal all you have to do is throw it in a pan!
Stock up your pantry on staples! Salts, vinegars, sugars, spices are all key in making a simple meal stand out. Then all you have to do is pick up your produce or proteins at the store.
Don’t Waste! Something that we believe in at Saffron Fix is that by portioning out ingredients we are helping cut waste. What do you do with the other 5 apples in the bag that you didn’t use in your recipe? Make a crumble! A salad! Find ways to use the products you have first before going out and getting more.
Help young entrepreneurs and help your own curry cravings. Their social Media Links are:
1. Kickstarter http://kck.st/1pLYwTG
2. Facebook www.facebook.com/saffronfix
3. Twitter www.twitter.com/saffronfix