Masala Wala Cafe, Brockley

Celebrating Women in Food: Of Supper clubs and restaurants #InternationalWomensDay

I’m pretty sure it was December 2016 and with a blink of an eye, it’s already March 2017! Where has the time gone??

Even though I may seem MIA on my blog, I’ve been very much present and feeding myself as always. I think I should rename my blog to Fat Diaries London. I feel like it’s a constant battle trying to eat indulgently in a “healthy” way. Not sure that makes sense. It doesn’t make sense to me either. But hey, I’m going to say that to make myself feel better. What can a girl do eh!

Anyway, no better way to kick off this newish year (it’s only been 2 months in so still counts as new!) than to celebrate some fantastic and badass women behind some up and coming as well as established supper clubs and restaurant. 

With International Women’s Day ♀️ on Wednesday 8th March, thought an early treat for all my ladies AND gentlemen out there was on order :). As this day is as much about celebrating not only the amazing and kick ass women but also the men who have supported these women in fighting for equality. 

Love this quote by Maya Angelou: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

Despite what we see and hear around us today, food definitely does bring us all together. I also want to dedicate this post to my mother aka mama aka mumsy aka ma who is one strong, fiery, compassionate and determined lady.

As part of this feature I asked the ladies behind these ventures, two questions:

  1. How will you be celebrating International Women’s Day this year?
  2. What does being a woman mean to you?

This post is a bit long so get a nice cup of tea and read on!

Let’s kick off this post with some of these wonderful women who are feeding us hungry Londoners with their passion for food, love of their heritage and shaking things up in the London food scene. 

Asma Khan of Darjeeling Express:

Quick update:

Indian restaurant opening in June 2017 at Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, London. 

I unashamedly stalk photos of food on Instagram. And times when I can’t sleep, I stare at photos of food to put me to sleep. Believe it or not, it truly works 😂 anyway one of these days of scrolling through my insta, I came across some delicious looking desi (common term used for Indian and Pakistani food…and people :P) plates of food. Turns out it was Asma’s residency at The Sun and 13 Cantons pub in Soho. 

Asma’s delicious Hyderabadi Haleem

I’m a sucker for some good ol Asian (Indian/ Pakistani food) in London. Needless to say, I was obsessed and starting stalking Asma. After trolling her insta for ages saying I WANT THAT BIRYANIIIIIII 😫

I finally tracked her down at Druid Street Market food stall where she was doing a daily menu of some delicious Indian food. It was heartwarming to see a team of hardworking women, not only serving up some goddam tasty food but also feeding any person who was fasting during Ramadan, for free! Moreover all their profits were going towards Syrian refugees. 

Having been to a number of her supper clubs, I can honestly say I am in awe of her commitment, perseverance, passion for delicious Indian food and the love for her heritage. Most importantly, she has a big heart ❤️

Regarding International Women’s Day, Asma Khan says:

  1. How will you be celebrating International Women’s Day this year?

I am celebrating with a Darjeeling Express team dinner at my home- my all women team is made up of women of 4 different nationalities. There is a huge strength in having a diverse workforce as they bring in their own unique cultural perspective to the workplace which is very valuable. I grew up watching my mother run her highly successful food business in Calcutta and at that time it was a rarity to have a woman running a catering business.

2. What does being a woman mean to you?

The one thing I learnt from her was the importance of service- my mother would make sure she spoke to all the guests and explained the food to them. It is wonderful to see so many women in the food business in this country- I think having an all women kitchen has helped me because of the way we cook and our ethos.

Full house at Asma’s supper club at The Cinnamon Club

Watch this space and make sure you go check out her restaurant when it opens.

(I’m secretly hoping this will help me get a permanent spot at her table hahah…. pretty please!! 🙌🏼😩)

Cordelia and Team of Eat Bagan:

Truth be told, I’ve never had Burmese cuisine before and know very little of the food. 

I was invited to Cordelia’s supperclub through a fellow blogger and friend of mine (Ed @onehungryasian), and I thought why not??

I looked at the menu and it sounded really interesting. The tamarind meatballs definitely stood out but I was also intrigued to find out how the food would taste and look like.

Cordelia is half Burmese and watching her talk about her heritage so passionately made me so happy for her as well as excited for the dinner ahead. She has a great team of women and men behind her. 

The evening was organised impeccably, from the decor to the service to the interior around the hired venue. 

Each course was delicious yet the two that stood out for me were the daal starter and the dessert.

Yummy tamarind meatballs

I am not a dessert fan but I wiped that baby clean! I didn’t even have space for dessert and had already told my friends they could have mine. When it arrived, one bite and I retracted. Sorry guys but no can do. This dessert is going in my belly. Full stop. Not overly sweet and made with semolina. The dessert was perfect!

Eat Bagan Supper club dessert
Burmese ‘Shwe gyi sa-nwin makin’, with rum infused clotted cream topped with toasted coconut

Regarding International Women’s Day, Cordelia says:

    1.  How will you be celebrating International Women’s Day this year?

With my Mum , the most inspirational women I know. She left her country (Myanmar) and her parents aged 18 and started a new life in the UK. She’s fought cancer. She’s put up with my Dad all these years and to put it lightly that’s not been easy, in fact only a Saint could do 45 years with him, as much as I love him. She bought up three children whilst keeping an immaculate  house and once I was born also held down a full time job! There’s no limit to her ability. Most of all she’s such a kind and loving person. We plan to bake a yoghurt cake in the morning and get our nails done in the afternoon. The perfect day with the most important person in my life. 

  1.      2. What does being a woman mean to you?

I love being a woman. I think it’s a very exciting time for women at the moment too, I know so many strong women who are doing amazing things. I feel as a women we have the best of both worlds. Being a women hasn’t stopped me doing anything I’ve wanted to do. I’ve travelled in Africa alone doing charity work as a medical student then later in Central America as a doctor. I lift heavy heavy weights with my personal trainer Sian Myers who pushes and guides me, I live on my own, I run our pop up Bagan with two great friends and wonderful women, Lucy Aebischer and Emma Bebb, alongside being a Doctor. I think we are lucky as women because we have this incredible ability to do multiple things at once, well. I also like being a girl. I like to bath, paint my nails and get dressed up. This is something I’ve really embraced as I’ve got older. When I was younger I kept wanting to be ‘one of the boys’ like I had something to prove. Who did I need to prove anything to? Maybe my Dad but he’s 75 and quite old fashioned.  Everyone else around me, friends and family, has been so supportive over the years through the tough times and the good times. They all believed in me. I think there are times when I don’t believe in myself and this is something I’m working on, my own self belief, the only thing that holds me back. I think as women we need to realise our strength and capability, embrace it and go for it!

Numra and team at Bun Kabab:

Quick update:

Her second supper club is this month to celebrate Mother’s Day called “Chai Pani- A Pakistani Afternoon Tea” and drooling over the menu already. Check it out here.

Also check out the image below for her next food stalls.

I LOVE Bun kebabs. A popular street food of Pakistan, you will find numerous food stalls selling these food street favourites. Think of it as a ‘light snack’ 👀 before a heartwarming plate of Nihari and naan. 

I have memories of buying these throughout my years growing up in Pakistan and particularly remember this guy who used to sell them outside my university. We used to call it “gunda burger aur jaali ketchup” = “dirty burger and fake ketchup” no it wasn’t a take on the dirty burger chain you have in London.

It’s because hygiene was probably not the highest concern for the guy who made these simply because he always perched himself around a considerably dusty and less appealing part of the roadside. Yet, that didn’t deter us, as the Bun Kebab he made was one of a kind. I saw my dark days of university through those babies- so I’ve deep love and respect for them 😂

Numra hard at work at Duke of York Square food market

When I saw there was someone doing these in London, I HAD to go try them. I started following Numra way before I could  track her down and try one of her creations. So after spending quite a while stalking her (you can see a trend developing here 😂) I managed to find her at the Duke of York Square, Saturday food market (she’s there on the last Saturday of every month!)

This badass lady has not only been running her food stall since 3 years but just kicked off her series of supper clubs. I attended the first one as she was kind enough to invite me to it. I love women supporting each other. I love her passion for Pakistani food and how she wants to bring it to the forefront. Her supper club was packed, it was fun, full of poetry and short story readings. 

Mouthwatering homemade Nihari

Regarding International Women’s Day, Numra says:

  1. How will you be celebrating international women’s day this year?
A group of my friends and I started a whatsapp group a couple of years ago to reflect on current affairs. Feminism is a reoccurring topic of discussion, more specifically, our shock in the lack of progress for women in society. This year we’re using International Women’s Day to sit down and create a feminist action agenda – we realised we need to do more than just fuel our frustrations in a whatsapp group. We’re pooling our resources: talents, money and all, to find a way to support one another and better help our progress. Watch this space!
2. What does being a woman mean to you?
Being a woman for me is the journey of discovering the type of woman I want to be. It’s not a constant but a fluctuating, evolving state of being. To be vulnerable and strong at the same time. To realise my naivety is my wisdom. To wake up a warrior independent lady, working hard, doing the heavy lifting and to go to sleep feeling weak, curling up to loved ones for support. To be a woman is to be wonderfully all those things.
Hard work and perseverance pays off and I love what a strong supper network she has of not only women but men behind her as well. Good luck!!
Quick update:
March (Spring) menu is now up!
March (Spring) menu is now up!
I think you pretty much know how I find places now, i.e. by stalking them on Instagram until I manage to go eat at their premises. So unless I mention otherwise, I probably found the next food place through my expert stalking skillzzzz haha

Anyway, Masala Wala Cafe. I’m a sucker for finger licking homemade Pakistani food. Being away from home, I do crave the food I grew up eating. I try and recreate it here, but you know it’s never the same how it is back home. 

After constantly salivating looking at their photos, I finally managed to get down to Brockley and eat enough food to feed me two times over. How did I feel? Excited! Exhilarated! Did I want to die of Food coma? Yes. Did I care? No. 

The team behind this amazing little eatery is Saima and her mum Nabeela. Saima, Nabeela and their lovely team run the restaurant while her mum works her magic in the kitchen and feeds people over and over. I love how they are so proud of their Pakistani heritage and how much they want to share it with community around them. 

They are a strong pillar of the community and absolutely love the way they support other women in the industry! Their positivity shines through which is why you want to go back to eat at their restaurant over and over. I love how they change their menu every month and ensure anyone who goes to eat at their restaurant gets true Pakistani hospitality. I would highly recommend you go and visit them, if you haven’t already. Alcohol is BYOB and they charge a modest amount for corkage. 

Trust me- the hype is well deserved!

Regarding International Women’s Day, Saima says:

  1. How will you be celebrating International Women’s Day this year?

We will be celebrating Masala Walas 2 year birthday, bringing Nabeela’s home recipes to the restaurant has been liberating and we hope food can bring freedom and opportunities to many more women in the future.

     2. What does being a woman mean to you?

Women are strong yet sensitive beings, we approach the world differently. we must stick together and celebrate our social and cultural achievements, sisterhood is a wonderful thing.

So there you have it! Some of the amazing women who are rocking the food world right now. Please do visit these businesses and support them as well as any other women led businesses close to you. Much love to all women around the world. Let’s not leave it to this one day to celebrate the women in your life rather show how much they mean to you every day of the year! Till the next one xx

P.S: I know I know the formatting is a bit off in the bottom half of this post. That’s because WordPress can be a total B* to work with sometimes…that is all! The OCD in me is having heart palpitations right now…

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