Express press service
CHENNAI: The frequent online barrage of bizarre street food in India cookies and cream vada pav, Fanta omelet, Oreo ke pakode (fried Oreo), Maggi mango has made me rather numb to culinary surprises. Or so I had thought until I found myself scrolling through the unique menu of Carl’s Kitchen, a recently launched cloud kitchen.
The Blanche’s branded project by JMJ Seafoods Pvt Ltd (seafood exporters) offers an assortment of hot dog items, samosas, lasagna, Thai curry, pizza, baos, momos, spaghetti and more with an ocean twist. The expected pork, beef or chicken are replaced with tuna or swordfish (and sometimes shrimp). “As seafood exporters, we have offered more than 125 products under our HookCatch brand, but we have noticed that in India people still only buy 5-6 varieties of fish.
We realized that unlike other countries, we don’t eat fish by species. For us, every fish is (just) fish, whether it’s a snapper or a grouper. But each of our products tastes different. Also, India usually consumes fish in sauce or fried, but we wanted people to taste fish in different formats and so we wanted to create sausages,” explains Arshad, the project leader. And so, after much research and development, their unusual selection of items was born.
While everything on offer seemed worth trying, we settled for the few options that seemed the rarest. The Punjabi tuna samosa was flaky with a touch of spice. The tuna in the filling with potatoes, onions and spices was almost unrecognizable, although delicious with the minced texture of the meat samosas. Accompaniments of tangy tamarind and date chutney and earthy, fresh mint chutney kept the snack familiar to the palate. It was a great start, followed by another winner with the tuna and cheese chicken hot dog. The bun, although slightly dry, was named after the cuisine and contained a simple, flavorful tuna sausage that was, like the samosa, indistinguishable from any other meat. The cheese and peri peri mayo added a bit of spice to the softness of the bread and the flavor of the meat.
Third, the Singapore chilli crab bao, which was heavy on the fishy flavor but a good dose of spice from the chilli, wrapped in a soft batter. While most of the items were easy to accept, the salumi pizza left more to be desired. The cured cheese and peppers combined with the irresistible smell and swimming pool taste of the tuna frankfurter and swordfish ham were confusing on the bread and the palate. That being said, the tuna Thai red curry with the aromatic sauce and the plain rice offered a better experience, as did the spaghetti and the tuna meatballs (for those who don’t mind a fishy aftertaste).
From the dough of breads and buns to sauces and dips – everything is done by the kitchen, and the switch to lean meat keeps the options healthier than others on the market, Arshad informs.
At the end of the meal, it was easy to store everything in the cardboard containers which, as Arshad explains, are designed with a tear-off system to give a nice appeal and a hygienic feel with little gum. Containers open into plates and can fold back to their original size.
The name of the kitchen is based on an imaginary character who loves all foods and multiple cuisines. Aside from the one-of-a-kind product, Carl’s Kitchen prides itself on its quality and standard operating procedures. “We wouldn’t serve our customers anything that we wouldn’t give to our families. Our SOPs in (currently) nine outlets are strong with all systems in place. We control the product from the raw material itself. Tuna and swordfish are essential to handle and require a lot of expertise. We have renowned laboratories where samples of each product are verified.
We also have experts at the purchase port who start quality control before sending to factories. Only after the tests are approved does the fish go into production,” says Arshad, adding that they are looking to enter other Tier 1 (and later, Tier 2) cities soon. The establishment was designed as a cloud kitchen since people want food on the go, he adds, but a Carl’s store is in the works that will offer customers the experience of grabbing a quick bite. While Chennai locals may still seem apprehensive about trying the products, it’s certainly a fun experience.