When my mum was learning to drive, she told me I was the best person to practice with because I wouldn't rush her, get tensed, or pass judgment. I translated that to mean I was her favourite person to try new things with! And so this Mother's Day, I offered my foodie-mum a choice of cuisines she'd never eaten before, and promised we'd explore one together. I'd make some stuff, she could make some with me, and we'd buy the rest. If she didn't like anything, she could ditch it, no questions asked.
I was thrilled when she picked Mexican. I've ranted about this before, but Hyderabad has no decent - read, authentic - Mexican food. None. If I want it, I know I should just make it. This was the perfect excuse. Last year this time I was in Mexico, so this gave me an opportunity to get nostalgic! I'd also been itching to try a new food start-up, Built2Cook, which delivers pre-prepped ingredients for international recipes. They had tacos on their menu, with sides of salsa and guacamole, all for Rs.250. Bring it on!
I like their website. Ingredients, portion size, and cooking time are clearly noted - and the ingredients include things like salt and oil, so you could literally have an empty larder and still cook up a meal. I also like their pictorial step-by-step recipes... given the people who order off Built2Cook are likely unfamiliar with the cuisine or even cooking in general, it's especially helpful. I wish they had 3 course options - right now, tacos were the only Mexican thing on their menu, so we had to look elsewhere for our other courses. I'd love to see a burrito up there.
The taco recipe came with a disclaimer that tacos are a diverse breed, and every person has their own recipe for the filling. I couldn't agree more. I wanted to tweak mine a bit, so I ran out to the local grocery store to buy a few things. While I was there, I did a quick cost comparison - 3 tacos would be Rs.60, the veggies would cost another Rs.120 (thanks, avocados!), sour cream + cheese would easily tally another Rs.200. That's assuming you don't bother with refried beans. Even without factoring in the opportunity cost of time spent prepping all that stuff, there's no doubt that Built2Cook saves you a lot of money. And assuming this is a one-off and you don't cook Mexican (or whatever else) all the time, you won't be stuck with a whole lot of, say, sour cream, that you'll never get around to using.
I got home and was surprised to find they'd already delivered my box at 6pm. I'd specifically asked for 7pm, and I couldn't help thinking that on a weekday, they took a real gamble by deciding to show up an hour early. It's 46 degrees out in Hyderabad, so it's not even like they could have left the fresh-prepped ingredients with the watchman. My mum also told me that they didn't have change for Rs.100. I personally think if a startup only offers cash on delivery, its dishes are all priced at Rs.250, and they do their own delivery, they should definitely give their delivery people a stack of 50's. Alternatively, just charge either Rs.200 (similar start-ups in Bangalore often charge Rs.150 on average); or go big, maybe add a lime soda for people to drink as they cook, and round off the bill to Rs.300. It's the small things that make the difference.
But we were excited with what we got - an enticing looking package reminiscent of Masterchef's Mystery Boxes, and a flyer with the pictorial recipe & ingredients list. My mum promptly pocketed the flyer for future reference, it's a keeper! We opened the box to find 4 compartments, with the ingredients for each component of the dish segregated neatly. Just in case anything got mixed up in transit, each packet or cup of ingredients was also labelled with the name of the ingredient, and the dish it was to be used for; eg: tomato (guacamole), tomato (salsa). Very nicely done. The olive oil and sour cream had both leaked, so some things were a tad messier than I'd have liked... but this was purely an optical problem - none of it got onto any of the other ingredients, and they'd packed a little extra of the basics such as salt and oil anyway. The latter's a bit of a double-edged sword, I guess, because with everything neatly portioned out, a newbie cook may be tempted to just add all the salt or all the oil... ouch. Maybe the recipe should specify how much of the seasoning to use, or say season to taste.
I loved the convenience of having all my stuff pre-prepped, it's like having a handy sous chef. As I said, I made a few tweaks to make it more like the Mexican I'm familiar with. In case you buy the same box and aren't too familiar with the cuisine, here's what I did:
- I kept aside the water chestnuts & babycorn to make a Thai curry with some other time, as I'd never had them in a taco before.
- Since it's not prime tomato weather, but it is mango season, I changed the tomato salsa to a mango salsa. Yum-my. Plus, it gave us more salsa.
- I bought some extra tortilla chips to go with the salsa & guacamole, and grated some more cheese to top them with.
- When avocado oxidizes, it quickly turns darker. So to preserve the colour and enhance the taste, it's recommended to add a squeeze of lime juice. You also want to mash it up a bit, so it tastes buttery.
- I also shredded the lettuce and coriander more finely, but that's subjective - I've a picky-eater husband so I tend to over-mince and make it hard for him to take out anything!
I made us some virgin mojitos to sip on as we cooked, and ordered a bunch of other stuff we could eat along with our tacos, chips, guac and salsa. I put on a movie, mum sampled everything, and we had the perfect, relaxed evening. She discovered she really likes guac & mango salsa, and said she'd try them again soon!
All in all, Built2Cook helped create some of those memories that money can't buy. It looks very promising, and I can't wait to order another box for a date-night in with A! Now if only they had a Thai green curry, or an Austrian spatzle....
(Usual disclaimer: this isn't a paid review, just me spreading the joy for anyone else who may be interested).