The idea for Chutney Chefs, a new company created by 24-year-old Akhil Shah of Edison, N.J., was simple: How to get the quality Indian food that he and other Americans of indian descent enjoy at home?
"Cooking Indian food — it's not easy at all," Shah said, who added that his mother cooks the food for him at home multiple times a week. "I thought, 'If people could make this food at home, it could be huge.'"
Related link: Quiz: What Indian Food Are You?
Shah partnered with the 5ive Chefs catering company to launch his company, which mails out vacuum sealed bags with ingredients for Indian food to customers in 11 states along the eastern seaboard.
The price is comparable to what you'd pay for standard takeout from your local Indian restaurant — about $12 an entree, plus $3 overnight shipping — but the difference is how the food is cooked, Shah said.
"You go to an Indian restaurant, you feel so heavy after you're done. They use vegetable oil because it's so cheap," he said. "We use soybean oil... It's much lighter. We're really trying to make you feel like it's a homemade meal."
Shah, a Rutgers business school graduate who worked in insurance before founding Chutney Chefs, acknowledged that ordering food is different than the usual late-night cravings that takeout restaurants capitalize on, but said the different approach has its benefits. The company was founded in January and is currently sending out 70 to 80 meals a week, he said.
"Our customer base is a little bit different. They're planning it at least one to two days in advance. They like to have their meals ready for the week," he said. "The ones who've hopped on the bandwagon, they like the idea."
Metro got a chance to sample the fare from Chutney Chefs. Read on for our thoughts on the food itself:
My sample menu included chicken makhani with jasmine rice and palak paneer (tofu) with two whole wheat rotis.
It is odd to get vacuum-sealed bags of ingredients in a box in the mail — a box with tiny bags with curry, chicken or tofu, and rice or roti, depending on what your order. The portions are also a bit smaller than most Indian takeout.
But after the 15 or so minutes of prep time, you've got food that tastes homemade and leaves you feeling good — not bloated as typical Indian takeout tends to.
The curry fresher and the spices had more flavor than any I had tasted in years of ordering Indian takeout. So maybe there is something to takeout in the mail after all.