As part of my day spent with the dabbawalas, I visited Spice Box who cook, pack and send off over 500 tiffin meals a day to hungry office workers all over Bombay. They use the dabbawalas to make the deliveries, and therefore have to have all their tiffins packed and ready to go before 10am in the morning.
So it was an early morning start for me, when I went to visit them at their kitchen and office. I was greeted Gurmeet who ran this family business that had been in operation for about 2 years. He talked to me about Spice Box’s menu, which is overseen by his mother. They produce about 50 different meals a month (half vegetarian and half non-vegetarian) and make sure that they don’t repeat a dish once, that is no easy task. After all how many different types of dahl can you make?
I was able to view the kitchen from a distance. It was small by Australian standards, but large by Indian standards.
One of the things that I found interesting was the use of space. The kitchen was divided into two separate areas, one for the preparation of vegetarian food and the other for non-vegetarian food. A critical requirement for any commercial kitchen in India, it was interesting to see how they had managed to do quite well it within the confines of the space available. The men that you can see cooking on the left are preparing the vegetarian chinese fried rice for the day’s meal.
Vegetarian meals are cooked and packed first. The packing is done at the front of the kitchen.
With each tiffin box containing 4 different dishes, it is a task just to ensure everything is packed in its correct container and then placed in its bag with the correct label (the importance of which is discussed in my post about the dabbawala process).
The meals are then stacked onto bicycles by the dabbawalas and ready to go to through their precise delivery process.
Spice Box also prepares meals for institutional clients which are packed in the more traditional steel stacked tiffin box and delivered by truck en masse to their destination.
At 10am, once the meals were on their way, Gurmeet and I sat down to the try out lunch early. It was Friday, which is “surprise” day at Spice Box, with a cuisine other than Indian prepared by a local expert. This week was Chinese week and this was our meal:
Whilst my meal didn’t photograph all that well, it was tasty and had a good kick of chilli in it. The meal had some oil, but Gurmeet assured me that efforts are made to minimise this as much as possible.
It was an interesting morning well spent, and one that I would like to see more of to see how others prepare their meals. There are numerous tiffin services that operate across Mumbai, ranging from small home cooks who make up to 20 tiffins a day to large scale producers preparing over 500 or more meals a day, each with 3-4 dishes per meal. All this delivered to the end customer that could be anywhere in the city by 1pm from Rs70 a day ($1.25). It really isn’t a bad deal at all!