Tucked away in a nondescript lane in Mumbai’s Santacruz West is Kaka Kaki, a cosy restaurant that serves Bohri delicacies. As one steps into it, a bunch of family photographs adorning the walls greets the visitor, reminders of the day Hozef and Duraiya Darukhanawala tied the knot in the early ’80s, celebrating the birth of their daughter, Zainab, and other family functions. These framed images lend an intimate vibe to the restaurant, which symbolises the love Hozef and Duraiya share for traditional Bohri cuisine and cooking.
In August last year, Hozef, 63, and Duraiya, 57, opened the restaurant, which remains open from 4pm to 10:30pm, alongwith their partner and family friend Sandeep Pai, after catering Bohri food for about a year. “We started Kaka Kaki with the intention of sharing our traditional home-made food with customers. Hardly any Mumbai-based restaurant served authentic Bohri food. We are called kaka and kaki in our community and our 21-year-old daughter Zainab came up with this name for the restaurant,” says Hozef. The catering service mostly offered regular Mughlai food such as biryanis and kebabs. The restaurant’s menu, however, comprises Bohri items such as chicken white sauce pattice, cream tikka (chicken or mutton), grilled chicken and Raan — leg pieces of lamb, marinated in Indian herbs for hours before being grilled to perfection, smeared with a lip-smacking sauce.
The opening of Kaka Kaki is a dream come true for Hozef and Duraiya — both afflicted with paralytic polio since childhood. They have shared the passion for food ever since they got married in 1984. “I suffered from polio when I was just one-and-a-half years old. Duraiya, however, was less affected than me and walks with a limp,” says Hozef, who needs the support of crutches to move around.
That, of course, does not stop him from cooking for hours or supervising the kitchen. They even manage their respective parallel careers along with running the restaurant. Earlier, Hozef used to work in banks, Bombay Mercantile Co-Operative for 15 years, then Samata Sahakari, and now runs a finance company. Duraiya is an artist and holds acrylic painting classes at her Santacruz studio.
Kaka Kaki can accommodate 10 customers at a time, and also offers takeaways and delivery services. If ordered in advance, they can serve the traditional Bohri Thaal, an elaborate seven-course meal, for a big group (it costs roughly Rs 4,500 for a group of eight). Hozef says, “The thaal is the signature Bohri experience we offer. Eating as a family is very important in our community.”
The Bohri Thaal at Kaka Kaki starts with Gol Paani, a drink made of jaggery water and sabza (basil seeds). What follows the drink, interestingly, is a pinch of salt. Next up: desserts — caramel custard and dudhi ka halwa (bottlegourd halwa). Nestled at the centre of the caramel custard is cubes of fresh chikoo and lychees. This is a recipe that Duraiya aces in. After that starters, such as a variety of samosas (fillings vary from minced meat, pulses to mawa) and Tam-Tam Batata (potatoes with tamarind sauce) make their way to the thaal. “Savoury and sweet items are served alternately, piping hot,” says Hozef. One of the most sought-after dish of the thaal is Dabba Gosht — a traditional Bohri delicacy, a hearty casserole dish of mutton, tomatoes, boiled eggs in white sauce, finished with a splash of egg and pure ghee.
Hozef’s family hailed from Surat and most of his recipes have been passed on to him from his grandmother. “My grandmother used to cook certain items like kebabs and biryani only on charcoal. She would also make my favourite Kuddal Palida, which was like a pulao with rice and daal,” says Hozef, who started experimenting with recipes as he grew older.