Last week I told you about the Nelson Market on-line store, a store that means you can shop for your favourite local hand-crafted products from the comfort of your armchair, but I also mentioned I was going to tell you about some of the people making exceptional ethnic foods, food styles they have brought with them from their homelands and this week it’s all Indian – Indian Curry Wraps in fact.
A wrap isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Indian food, but the roti is an important part of Indian cuisine and it makes sense to use them as a wrap so you can enjoy tasty Indian food on the go.
I met with the owners of Indian Curry Wraps, Jobi Kallamparampil Jacob (“my name is too long for people to spell and say so it’s just Jobi”) and Jincy Joseph.
The couple arrived from India where their home was in the Kerala (southern India) region and they say the Parotta (a type of bread) is very common there.
How did this delightful couple end up in New Zealand and Nelson in particular? Jincy arrived here first in 2014 to study nursing (CAP) at NMIT and Jobi followed in 2015, “I’m working at Nelson Hospital at the moment and my colleagues love Jobi’s food when he brings in treats for them.”
While Jobi was a Social worker in India his family has a catering and food business there so he grew up in a food family and decided he wanted to use those cooking skills from home and set up a business here. “I had a few part time jobs to start with because we wanted to make sure our business idea would work before making it full time” Jobi told me.
The couple have a daughter, Isabella, who is going to be three in August so they also share the parenting duties, “me working on the new business ideas and recipes and working part time while Jincy works as a nurse. This works well for the family life.”
Because the Indian palate is quite different to the Kiwi palate Jobi had to try different recipes with various levels of heat to find the right flavour balance for their wraps.
“He made butter chicken for the hospital department I work in,” says Jincy, and everyone loved it and wanted to buy it and then some of our friends asked us if we would start a food business so they could buy Jobi’s food.”
Comments like that gave the couple the confidence to invest in a food cart, that has a commercial kitchen built-in, and to embark on this new journey, but it is the food that is making this fledgling business a success.
Jincy told me they only opened at the end of March but already their food is so popular they usually sell out by about midday at the market. So why is it so tasty?
“The main thing is we buy raw spice ingredients and then roast our own spice (masala) mixes for each type of wrap. The fresh masala makes all the difference, it gives a much better aroma and flavour, it’s fresh and aromatic compared to bulk or packet pre-made blends.
“The Parotta is made using plain flour and is quite a simple recipe but you need to use the right quality ingredients to make sure you get a nice flaky roti. In India people use layers of this bread so we modified it to make it as a single layer of roti so we can use it as a wrap.”
Like most places in India the foods in the Kerala region have a big focus on flavour as well as spice heat, “we understand people here can’t handle the heat we are used to, so we have modified the recipes for the Kiwi palate but still retain all the classic curry flavours of our homeland” says Jincy.
All of their food is made fresh on the day they sell it, and yes, that means an almost all-night shift making curries and roti every Friday night before they arrive at the market at about 6am!
Jincy says “Overnight on Friday night we make everything ready to serve but the filling for the egg roll is made to order, from about 4am we make the roti so they are fresh to use when we open.”
All of the curry fillings are made in a similar way but using different ingredients, they make the various sauces that are designed to go with each filling but these are altered slightly so they are suitable for a wrap. Jobi told me, “rather than making thin sauces like you might get in a bowl of curry we have thick curry gravy so it doesn’t run out of the wrap.”
While the egg, vegetarian and butter chicken wraps are incredibly tasty and popular it’s the lamb wrap that is their most popular, “It’s the first to sell out each Saturday.”
The intention is to gradually expand the dishes and flavours they have to offer “We intend to make other flavours we used to have in India, beef with our own roast spices that will be Kiwi hot not Indian hot. A lot of dishes in our country have a rice component so we will be adding some rice dishes in bowls at some stage, we are just getting established and want people to understand our food and flavours before we add too many options.”
And based on the feedback they have had so far it won’t be long before new dishes appear on the menu at the Indian Curry Wraps food cart. Jincy told me that at the Isel park twilight summer market, a boy nearly ten years of age bought one wrap and stood in line again, “we thought he was going to buy another one but he wanted to tell us how much he enjoyed it. This really meant a lot to us because a young boy went out of his way to give us the compliment.
“We are really happy and appreciate the support we have had, we just want to say thank you to people for welcoming us and buying our food, we really do appreciate the support.”