Bangalore-based Najma Abdulla’s Mamma’s Kitchen is making regional Indian cuisine more accessible to youngsters in the Tech City. Mamma’s specializes in North Kerala’s famous Moplah cuisine.
What inspired Najma to start Mamma’s? The idea of the home-run catering service came when she noticed that her daughter’s colleagues polished off every meal she sent in her lunchbox.
Born and raised in Kannur district of Kerala, Najma has spent a part of her childhood in Ernakulam. Coming from a conservative family, she faced societal restrictions at every step. However, with her father’s support, she was able to graduate from college.
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“I have always been passionate about cooking. I wanted to take care of my home and children, while also wanted to have an income of my own. Becoming a home chef felt like the right way to combine both wishes,” – Najma Abdulla
How cooking happened
“When I was a child, I used to watch my mother cook and that got me interested. She would give me little tasks to do, like slicing onions and the other vegetables. As I grew older, she gave me more and more complicated tasks, like making side dishes for a family meal,” Najma explained.
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“After I got married, I spent a few years living with my mother-in-law, who was a very good cook. We cooked together and experimented with different recipes. I picked up some very useful tips. But I was only able to run my own kitchen freely after I moved to Oman. It was then that I began cooking independently and became confident in my own abilities as a chef. My husband would encourage me to try different types of dishes, which also built my confidence,” Najma said.
Response her business has generated
Najma said living in a metropolitan city like Bangalore has helped the business. “I’m quite happy with how my business is running. I don’t have any plans currently to expand, but I might sometime in the future.”
Mamma’s also caters for birthdays and lunch/dinner parties.
Support from family
“My family supported me fully. My kids helped me in whichever way they could,” she said. In fact, the entire family decided the name of the business together (Mamma’s Kitchen), worked on the menu, etc.
USP: Najma’s signature dish is the Mamma’s Special Tellicherry Biryani. “It is my special version of my hometown’s biryani. I make it with mutton, chicken or seafood,” said Najma
About Indians trying out new cuisines
“My experience has been that people are open to trying, even if they don’t know much about Mopplah or even Kerala food. There have been times when they ask me to recommend a starter or a curry without knowing anything about the dish,” Najma opined.
Apart from Mamma’s Special Tellicherry Biriyani, Mutton Kurma, the Unnakaya (banana dumplings with a stuffing of egg and dry fruits), and the Pazham-Nirachadu (stuffed banana with a filling of sweetened egg and dry fruits, served with a cardamom-based caramelised syrup) are popular. The cutlets on the menu (mutton/chicken/veg) and pickles, such as prawn, dates and lime, also find a fair number of takers.
“Delivering the orders can sometimes be challenging. When I first began operations, my son helped with the delivery. As the business expanded, thankfully, I found opportunities to tie up with delivery services,” said the home chef.
Recently, Mamma’s Kitchen put up a stall at an exhibition hosted annually in Bangalore. “That was a challenging experience because I had to prepare large amounts of food for a single day of sales. That entire day was challenging, but also very rewarding. My kids and assistants supported me strongly,” recalled Najma.
“I believe more women should be involved in running hotels and restaurants. Any person who is passionate about cooking and has the skills, should be given the chance to prove themselves, whether they are men or women”
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Scope for Young Girls
“I have met other young home chefs who are running their own businesses, and they are very excited to be in this arena. They deserve and should get support from their families,” Najma asserted.
Cooking as a Liberated Profession for Women
“I definitely believe that cooking has led to freedom and independence for women of all ages. Many women now use their spare time in home-run businesses.”
“I very strongly disagree that women belong to the kitchen. I believe that women are more patient and sincere in whatever work they do, and that can make their business successful”
Specific Style of Cooking
The food Najma make belongs to the Mopplah and is known for its rich and diverse flavours. “There are plenty of snack items that people are very curious about and want to know how they are made, especially those made with Kerala banana (“naendra”) and chicken. I would love to make these snacks more popular because I think everyone will enjoy them,” she said.
What is a typical day is like
“When I have Mamma’s Kitchen orders to handle, most of my day is spent preparing the food. On other days, I spend my time relaxing with a book or by watching some TV.”
“I don’t really use any ingredients that are difficult to procure. But since I always cook with fresh ingredients, I have to plan my purchases carefully. I am particularly careful with how I purchase meat. Like, if I need to use fish in any dish, I am always careful about buying fresh fish from my usual vendor,” explained Najma.
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