Perzen Patel (Photo Supplied)
Growing up in New Zealand was quite an experience for Perzen Patel, who migrated from India as a teenager.
Among her most memorable experiences were shared lunches with friends at school.
There was many a time when she felt embarrassed to open her lunchbox in front of her Kiwi friends at school. While other children brought sandwiches, Perzen’s mother would pack leftover meals from the night before. Some days it was Potato Bhaji, Rice and Curry and on other days it would be Lentils with Roti.
Regardless of what lunch she would get, a friend would ask her, “Is that Butter Chicken?”
It took many years for Perzen to fully understand that annoying question, because Butter Chicken, Tikka Masala and Naan had, for since long been the only Indian dishes with which New Zealanders were most familiar.
She often thought how Kiwis would ever learn the real taste of India.
“If no one made the effort to get them to appreciate the vast variety and the true flavours of the Indian cuisine, the misconception will continue,” she told herself.
The amazing Indian Cuisine: Variety, Healthy and Tasty (Photo Supplied)
Passion leads to enterprise
Perzen and her husband Rushad decided to launch ‘Dolly Mumma,’ with a wide range of Indian delicacies to the multicultural New Zealand market.
Her passion for cooking soon developed into a family business.
Today, with an increasing number of quality Indian Restaurants, Kiwis have a wide choice of diverse cuisine and dishes. However for an average New Zealander, cooking with Indian flavours can still be very daunting.
“I truly felt that if I wanted people to experience the incredible taste of India, I had to bring those flavours into their kitchen and show them how versatile and easy cooking an Indian meal could be. As a mother of two children, I also realised that it had to be quick, easy and uncomplicated. That was the only way people would give it a try,” she said.
The Kitchen Project
Perzen and Rushad established ‘Dolly Mumma,’ named after her maternal grandmother who was a fabulous cook in her days.
In October 2020, Perzen went through ‘The Kitchen Project.’ It was a unique incubator style programme covering food safety, marketing, business planning and almost all aspects of food business run by Auckland Council’s ‘Connected Communities.’
This Communities Project aims to help budding food entrepreneurs living in West and South Auckland, take their next step into becoming full-time culinary businesses.
“At the beginning, the only thing I was certain was that Butter Chicken would definitely not feature on our menu. It took a few brainstorming sessions to get the business plan and the product mix right,” Perzen said.
They ventured boldly into the market of ‘Ready to cook pastes out of a bottle,’ with a big difference. Their flavours originated from her grandmother’s treasure trove of original, authentic, and time-tested recipes, which have been transferred from one generation to another with dollops full of love.
“In the beginning, we sold only our grandmother Dolly’s Coastal Curry Paste, a Spiced Ghee that infused magic in any dish and an Indian Everyday Paste. Now we have a range of six products and have added a Tandoori Paste & a Cashew Korma,” Perzen said.
Indian Recipes that have been gifted by generations (Photo Supplied)
Add flavour to your meal
The motto of ‘Dolly Mumma’ is “Go beyond Butter Chicken.”
It has been a hugely rewarding journey for Perzen and Rushad with ‘Dolly Mumma’ being recently named a “Highly Commended Finalist,” in the 2021 New Zealand Inspire+Artisan Awards.
Presence in Farmers Markets
The Company also has a significant online market presence and is constantly growing with delivery nationwide.
Indian families are also on their list of regulars, as it is authentic and convenient cooking for busy working mothers.
“I dream that my children can one day take Potato Bhaji in their school lunch boxes and their friends will know exactly what they are eating because their families can also cook it too with ease,” Perzen said.
Rashna Tata is a former President of the Zarathustrian Association of New Zealand (ZANZ) and is an active member of the South Asian communities. She takes up and pursues the concerns and causes of the communities she represents with political, business and community leaders. She lives in Auckland.