We were inspired to create Chai Naasto as homage to our Nani and it is with her that our story begins. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia to Indian parents, Nani began cooking at the tender age of 10. Fascinated by the wondrous things she could conjure in the kitchen, she would often skip going to the movies just so she could stay and cook a little more.
Influenced by her surroundings and the ingredients immediately available to her, she found that, although India was the heart of all that she made, the soul of Africa seeped into all she created. This was to be a theme that would follow her around the world, throughout her life.
Nani moved to Saudi Arabia in 1958, where she won the heart (and belly!) of our Dada (grandfather). It was here that her Indian/African fusions were further bolstered by exotic Arabian influences. Then, in 1975, she moved to a very cold United Kingdom, where the variety of vegetables and spices were vastly different to those, which she had grown accustomed. Ever adaptable, Nani just saw this as another opportunity to experiment and transform something basic into something delicious.
Nani settled in the U.K. but never content to sit on her laurels, she often flew back to India to explore her homeland and learn about her culinary heritage and that is where she fell in love with Indian street food.
By the time us grandkids came along, our little taste buds knew no different. When we ate at our Indian friends’ houses, we didn’t understand why their food tasted different so to ours. When we ate at restaurants, we didn’t know why the dishes seemed alien to us. Until Nani explained her story.
Almost everyone believes that their family’s recipes are the best, but our belief in Nani was so profound that we decided to pool together everything we had and work tirelessly just so that we could share her legacy with the whole world.
There’s Nim, the big brother or “Ricky Rozay,” as we like to call him; who has the gift of the gab and always wears a smile on his face. There’s Viren, the baby of the bunch, the one got more than his fair share of good-looks (and took all of ours too); who loves interacting with people and keeps things running during service. And then, there’s Tilesh, the serious one with a heart of gold and a face like thunder; who has a million and one ideas and works behind the scenes non-stop to bring them come to life.
Our story isn’t done, and we hope it won’t be for a good while yet. So, come and be a part of our story, we look forward to meeting you.