Sarthak Samantray and Aman Kota Focus on Indian Cuisine in Their Lufu Pop-Up | Food and Drink | Weekly gambit


Sarthak Samantray and Aman Kota attended culinary schools in their native India, but they met in New Orleans while working in the French Quarter. Samantray grew up in Odisha, in eastern India, and completed the Culinary Program at the University of Manipal. Kota is from Hyderabad and studied at the Culinary Academy of India. They launched their Indian food pop-up Lufu (which means “Let Us Feed U”) in June and most weeks they serve food Friday through Monday at changing locations including Miel Brewery, Pal’s Lounge, Hotel Drifter, Parleaux. Beer Lab, Coffee Science, Café Negril and elsewhere. Find the pop-up on Instagram at @lufu_nola.

Gambit: How did you end up cooking in New Orleans?

Aman Kota: I graduated from Culinary Academy of India. After I finished I worked on a cruise line for a year. I have visited 22 or 23 countries. Then I moved to America for work. I came to Branson, Missouri, for an internship. My friends told me that if I wanted to learn more about food, I had to come to New Orleans. So I visited New Orleans and fell in love. So I moved to New Orleans.

Sarthak Samantray: I was 19 when I arrived in the United States, I had already finished culinary school. We came to America and got jobs in different hotels. It was by chance that we were working for the same boss. He owned several restaurants and bars in the city. We liked it and we were appreciated.

K: We were talking about food. It’s our passion.

S: He would cook something and bring it to my house. I cooked something, we had beers and we talked. This is where Lufu was founded.

K: We were like, we graduated from the best culinary schools in India. Let’s show people what they don’t know about Indian cuisine.

Gambit: What do you think people should know about Indian cuisine?

S: We learned French techniques in India, because we have a strong British influence in our food. In parts of India, British cuisine is celebrated. But we have our own idea of ​​food. We are also strongly influenced by Middle Eastern and Persian cuisine. India was ruled by the Mughals for 100 years. There is a heavy dietary impact on Indian cuisine.

K: People think butter chicken is our only dish. There are so many other things. We are motivated to change people’s mindsets. They always say, “It’s a curry, so are you using curry powder?” (In India) we never use curry powder. There is nothing called curry powder in India.

S: Curry is an English term for any type of sauce or liquid. For the English, everything is curry in India. But everything is so different. Some things are made from yogurt. Some things are made from tomatoes and onions. There are different types of masala: wet masala and dry masala. We have an next eggplant dish with a wet masala and its coconut made from garlic and onions. It’s so beautiful when you put it together.

We have the garam masala. It is a mixture of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves. You can create your own version.

K: All over India it’s not about (spicy heat). It’s a question of flavor.

S: Here, we see mango lassi everywhere. It’s not even a thing in India. I mean, they have mango lassi, but it’s not popular like here. There are so many varieties. In my part of India, they drink salty lassis. In India, if you walk 30 miles, you find different dishes, languages, people.

Olvie opens daily at 7 a.m. for breakfast and serves an extensive menu all day throughout the day.

Gambit: What kinds of dishes do you like to make for Lufu?

K: We have decided to make authentic Indian food no matter what. We decided to change the menu so they could always try something different.

S: The Royal Frenchmen hotel was the first to accept us. We made tandoori chicken salad, butter chicken, aloo gobi, and gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding).

Each week is a different creation depending on the products (which are available). We take a look at which regions of India we have already covered. We mix and match around India.

K: The classic regional first dish was the qurbani ka meetha. This is from Hyderabad. It is a dessert of stewed apricots with a homemade ice cream.

S: We made shahi tukda (bread pudding) from Lucknow, lamb vindaloo from Goa and bhel puri from Maharashtra. It’s a stew.

K: We make baby eggplant curry, which is famous where I come from. It’s a stuffed eggplant. You make a sauce with onions, tomatoes and marsala and add the stuffed eggplants and finish it with a creamy yogurt sauce and serve it with rice.

S: It’s weird to mix dishes from different regions. But when you work with it, you don’t, because you’ve studied all of these dishes. I have studied Indian cuisine from all regions and have worked all over the country. Traveling has helped me a lot – going to grandmothers’ houses and seeing what they are doing.

Homemade Indian cuisine is different from restaurant cuisine. It’s healthy and light. There are a lot of basic stews with rice, or soup with rice. Indian restaurants use a lot of masala, oil, ghee (clarified butter).

K: We want to serve everything. India has so many dishes. We only do three a week, so we can do it for the next 20 years.

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