Meet the woman on a mission to make authentic Asian home cooking easier
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We’re spoilt for Asian food in the UK, from Indian to Chinese to Thai to Japanese to Vietnamese and everything in between. Every year, supermarkets do get better at providing improved curry kits and sauces for us to try to replicate authentic cooking at home.
However, as good as these jars of sauces get, they’ll never quite get you the same taste you get using fresh authentic ingredients selected by Asian food experts. But getting your hands on some of the more obscure spices and condiments has never been that easy in the UK – which is why entrepreneur Jyoti Patel started Feast Box.
Feast Box is a food box service with a difference. Yes, you go online and pick the meals you’d like for the week and then you get a box full of ingredients. However, the ingredients are authentic and chosen specifically to give you the genuine flavours of whichever world cuisine you’re cooking. And they’re not ones you can easily find in a supermarket.
Speaking to Jyoti, it’s clear her desire for authenticity in cooking came from growing up in a family that was obsessed with food.
“Food is a big deal in our household,” she says, “and our life revolves around food! I grew up in a large home – my grandmother was usually cooking for 20 people each night. She had just the most amazing cooking, and she taught me tricks to help prepare meals more quickly – shortcuts that you’ll find in your Feast Box. We give you pre-made garlic paste – it saves so much time. My grandma would spend every Sunday preparing the week’s garlic paste and onion paste to speed up cooking during the week.”
Getting the right ingredients is just the start
Jyoti struggled to finding authentic world cooking ingredients in the UK, and when she did they weren’t always in the best condition.
“When I had kids I found it that much harder to cook because it’s tricky to find the authentic ingredients in British supermarkets, and when you do go to some of the specialist Asian supermarkets it was often a horrid experience – often the stock wasn’t there or it’d be rotten, or parking would be a nightmare.”
Jyoti went on to found Red Rickshaw, an online Asian food supermarket. This helped get quality ingredients to people, but she found people were stumbling upon another problem:
“As Red Rickshaw grew we found that even our more experienced customers didn’t necessarily know how to use the ingredients properly – and that’s why we started Feast Box in late 2018 to help educate people.”
Feast Box’s weekly menus offer everything from Indian classics to delicious Malaysian and Thai dishes. The weekly menu is basically a greatest hits of Asian and world cooking.
Why is Feast Box different from any other recipe box companies?
“I’ve tried them all, and the key thing for us is the ingredients and the number of ingredients in a box,” says Jyoti. “Most of our recipes have very generous portion sizes. If it’s a two person recipe it could feed three, for example. Also in most food boxes you might get six ingredients per recipe, some of which you’ll have in your store cupboard anyway. Some of our recipes include 14 – I know it sounds like a lot but it’s still convenient and they’re easy to include in the recipe. Our ingredients are more exotic too – things you wouldn’t normally have like cassava, okra, black limes or dosa batter.”
University cooking kick-started everything
Jyoti hopes that being given the right ingredients can inspire Feast Box customers to use more Asian spices and ingredients in their day-to-day cooking.
“What was really important to my mum when I went to university was never, ever going hungry! My mum said, ‘If you’re not going to eat well you’re not going to study well’. So the summer before I left she gave me this spice tin and told me which ingredients to use and taught me all these shortcut ways of cooking quickly even if I didn’t have all the right ingredients – like refrying some baked beans and adding some spices in.”
Jyoti’s take on baked beans and guacamole
After setting off my baked bean alarm, I set Jyoti the classic James May challenge. How would she jazz up baked beans?
“I used to do this at university! You’d have to temper the baked beans in some oil, then I would add some homemade garlic chutney. To make it you just mix fresh garlic, chilli powder and salt, make that into a paste and put it in the oil. Then add some turmeric and cumin powder and mix it in – it gives you these sort of fiery beans!”
If your tastes are a little more sophisticated than baked beans, then Jyoti also has a killer guac hack.
“If you don’t have a lime or lemon but have mango powder then it gives you the sour taste that you need for good guacamole. Mash up some avocado, add salt, pepper, chilli flakes if you want, then add mango powder – it turns it around completely!”
Asian cuisine doesn’t need to be unhealthy
Jyoti’s keen to share her belief that Asian food doesn’t deserve its unhealthy reputation.
“We’re trying to break down the perception that world food is unhealthy. The food you get in restaurants tends to be oilier and less healthy than it can be. When I cook Indian food, for example, it’s lots of lentils, grains, and daals – you maybe mix in a spoon of coconut oil but it doesn’t need to be unhealthy.”
Despite offering a choice of 12 meals that change weekly, Jyoti still plays an active part in recipe development at Feast Box, and she encourages her team to join in.
“Each day we cook up recipes and our whole team of 10 gets to sample it. Each recipe gets recooked at least four times to make sure it’s easy and exactly how we want it to taste. Enjoying food is a key requirement for anyone working for us! Our office smells amazing.”
Fancy trying Feast Box for yourself?
Head over to Feast Box to pick your first recipes, and check out James May’s review of a Feast Box Thai curry.