London Supper Clubs – Khao (to eat)

Supper Clubs in London are now all the rage! I love attending supper clubs and I am now onto my fourth one this year, after Supper Club in a Tube, Vegan Ayurvedic Supper Club, Malaysian Supper Club and Brunch Supper Club. I find Supper Clubs are a great way to meet new people in the city who are as passionate about food as I am. At the same time, it is fun getting to know cuisines that I have never tried before. Continuing with this quest, I recently attended another supper club, this time a regional representation from my beloved motherland.

For someone who has grown up in India, I am ashamed to admit that I am still yet to explore all of its diverse regional cuisines. So when I heard about Khao – a four course supper club inspired by the regional cuisine of Gujarat – I was highly intrigued.

For those who don’t know, Gujarat is a state from the Western Coast of India. There is a huge vegetarian slant to the cuisine and large parts of the menu is plant-based.

Khao literally means ‘to eat’. The supper club was held in a lovely venue in Hackney called Poster Hauss, a newly opened interactive café with stage, bar and kitchen that hosts supper clubs as well.

Our hostess Punam Vaja welcomed us to the light and bright conservatory space.

Whilst we got chatting with our fellow guests, she deftly brought in the first course:

TO START
Patra | Colocasia leaves covered in gram flour mix, rolled and steamed, lightly stir-fried in curry leaves
Bateta Wada | Round potato, onion and coriander dumplings deep fried in a spongy chickpea flour

This course is inspired from dishes that are normally eaten as part of a afternoon tea time treat. The colocasia was a beautifully deep and textural dish. The round potato dumplings were my favourite, with their crispy golden exterior and homogenous mash-like texture within. Both snacks had a fresh and fiery taste to them and it was nice way to wake up the senses on a sleepy Sunday evening and prepare ourselves for the next courses.

SECOND COURSE

Marcha nu Shaak | Small green peppers filled with gram flour, cumin and turmeric seasoning 

Orro | Smoked aubergine

Rotli | Whole wheat flatbread

This course was my favourite from all the dishes served that evening. The food truly tasted like a home cooked meal away from home, like a mother’s love on a plate. I loved the stuffed, crispy-coated peppers which had bit of kick as well as a mild sweetness to them. The smoky aubergine puree was full-flavoured and delicious. I would have happily asked for seconds had there not been more courses to follow.

THIRD COURSE

Khadhee | Sweet and sour tempered curd 

Mattar Bhaat | Basmati rice, peas and carrots infused with cumin seed temper

Pan-cobi Sambharo | Green cabbage lightly fried in mustard seeds

The whole ensemble was like a big hug-in-a-bowl; hearty, wholesome stuff with memorable flavours that makes you hanker for home.

DESSERT

Saffron & Cardamom Cake | Saffron sponge, raspberry and cardamom jam with coconut cream

Until now most of the courses served were inspired from everyday Gujarati cuisine; food that one would happily eat at home but crowd-pleasing enough to offer to guests. Only the dessert was a slight departure from the homespun dishes we had seen so far. It was more of Punam’s own creation, a fusiony twist on the Victoria Sponge. The layers of saffron-scented sponge were lovely and buttery, although I would have preferred a tad less raspberry jam to fully taste the cake itself.

I had a chance to catch up with Punam and ask her a few questions about her supper club Khao:

How would you describe Gujarati cuisine?

Spicy! Very simple flavours, but we do not take it easy on the spice level! It is also known as a slightly sweeter cuisine too. Unlike North Indian cuisine, a lot of dishes don’t contain garlic or onion, which really alters the flavours of the curries. This means it is really versatile and you can pick up any vegetables and create a curry, using the basic tempering methods. 

What is the story behind Khao?

My family heritage comes from southern Gujarat and its cuisine is food I have known since I could chew! So it was second nature to introduce this food to the people I knew, and then the people they knew! Not a cuisine often found in restaurants here in London, I wanted to share the most authentic version of it; no cliches or fancy finishes, just honest, simple and yummy Gujarati food! I am generally very passionate about food and enjoy all kinds of cuisines, but when it comes to cooking for others, this is where my strengths lie! Some friends asked me about Gujarati food and so I held a little dinner at home, that later evolved into my first supper club. Word of mouth spread amongst friends and voila; one year later, Khao was born!

After running a couple of supper clubs from home, I finally decided to take Khao to a wider audience in 2019. The idea is simple; bringing people together around the table over wholesome and simple food. During the first supper clubs, one of the things that stayed with me was seeing complete strangers mingling and sharing their stories with one another. For instance, at one of the first supper clubs, we had a school head teacher meet a potential new geography teacher! I knew that day that this is where my passions lie. 

Where does the menu inspiration come from?

The menu is inspired from the Gujarati home. These are the dishes I grew up eating, and still to this day enjoy making and eating! They are the original recipes that I was taught by my mum and she by her mum. 

I aim to create a menu that can be replicated at home – hence why I always make sure to let people know they can ask me for recipes. Gujarati food is very simple, but packs a good punch of spice! It’s probably where I get my love of spicy food from…! A lot of recipes can be adopted for more locally sourced ingredients too, like Brussels sprouts – we don’t get those in India but they are available here in the UK, and so someone created a recipe and shared it! It’s one of my favourite curries! This keeps the menu relevant to its surrounding location and allows guests to have access to the most easy-to-find ingredients!

Where do you source your ingredients?

As I just mentioned, most of the ingredients are found in local green-grocers or supermarkets. There are hardly any ingredients used that are difficult to source! We want to make our food accessible to recreate at home, which is the only way we can spread the knowledge of Gujarati food to make it suitable for anyone who wants to try it. 

What’s your favourite all-time Gujarati food?

I have many loves to name here! Hmm, the one top dish that comes to mind is one that combines yellow split lentil daal with whole wheat chapatis. The dough is made with spices mixed into it, that is then rolled and cut into small squares. Its called ‘Daal Dhokli” and it’s sometimes called an Indian pasta dish! And don’t worry… it may appear on a Khao menu very soon..! 

Where does ‘Khao’ go from here?

So many things to come from Khao! I have two more supper clubs planned for 2019, so really looking forward to those for the time being! 

After attending this supper club, I have come out with a new found appreciation for Gujarati food. It also made me realise that in spite of having a huge Gujarati population in London, I am yet to see this type of cuisine represented in mainstream London restaurants. There is definitely a need in the market for this sort of neo-nostaligic homely food.

Khao has made a great start give this homespun cuisine a platform outside the realms of domesticity, uplifting without over-refining it. It will be amazing to see how Punam takes her supper club to the next level by creative innovative dishes based on Gujarati ingredients and cooking techniques.

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/khao_suppers/

Disclaimer: I was invited to review the supper club on behalf of Love Pop Ups London and my meal was complimentary, but all photos, videos and opinions are mine.