Though I had the privilege of enjoying my mom’s home cooking growing up, her cooking skills didn’t completely transfer to me. Let’s face it, everyone’s busy, and sometimes preparing food can feel especially taxing. But despite the hurdles involved with cooking, there are days when I crave something cozy and comforting and neither Uber Eats nor Seamless can cater to those hangry pangs fast enough. There is, in fact, the perfect middle ground: I’m surprised to report that I’ve found an instant product that actually tastes like home.
I grew up eating Indian food. No, that doesn’t mean my diet consisted of samosas and naan (though these items did make an appearance at nearly all wedding receptions). Like all cuisines, Indian food varies depending on the geographic location it is from. As someone from the state of Gujarat, located in the western part of the subcontinent, I most often experienced vegetarian fare consisting of different curries, rice, and rotis. In other parts of the country like Punjab, other leavened breads, lentil preparations, and seasonal vegetables comprise the signature dishes.
When I discovered The Cumin Club, I thought I was eating a dish prepared by my own mom. Better yet, the meal was technically the fruit of my labor—that is, tossing the contents of the package into boiling water. At an affordable price point, these packets are becoming my go-to pantry stocker, especially because I don’t always want to pay $20 for an entree of paneer tikka masala. As a bonus, the products showcase how a plant-based way of life could manifest in the Western world, especially as we shift toward an increasingly meatless future.
Cumin Club co-founder Ragoth Bala tells The Takeout that the company was born out of his desire to eat healthy, plant-based meals that could accommodate his busy schedule, which included balancing a career and MBA classes. The company worked with a research and development center in India to perfect more than 30 popular Indian recipes, including South Indian dishes like idli sambar, street food like pav bhaji, and even crunchy appetizers like papad.
The contents of the packets go through dry roasting and freeze-drying processes, extracting moisture from the dishes to extend the shelf life without the aid of either artificial or natural preservatives.
“Drying foods in the sun is a common preservation technique that dates back to our ancestors, and that was the inspiration behind our processes,” Bala tells The Takeout. “The recipes we opted for encompass ‘Cuisines of India.’ The food habits are as diverse as the population and provide a wealth of recipes to draw from, and at the moment our menu offers favorites from 6 different regions of India—Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Punjab and Gujarat.”
Bala notes that Cumin Club chefs consistently look for regional Indian dishes across the country that can be packaged without preservatives and easily translated to the five-minute prep format.
The 5-minute meal kits are a game changer, with both the ingredients and instructions clearly listed on the packaging. Most recipes require boiling water on the stove and then adding in the package contents, though some dishes can be microwaved—those are especially popular among students and working parents who are looking for even more convenience. There is also a growing interest in the product among non-South Asian consumers, especially flexitarians, who want to enjoy a nourishing plant-based meal and enjoy global cuisine.
If you order 20 meals, the unit cost is $4.99 per package, a price point intended to make the meals accessible to consumers considering a plant-based existence. The Cumin Club can be considered part of that transition; it’s a way to adhere to a meatless diet without being overwhelmed by the everyday meal prep often associated with that lifestyle. A pack of five meals costs $7.49/meal, and 10 meals cost $5.99/meal—still cheaper than ordering delivery, and shipping is free. (Since the meals come dehydrated, they don’t require ice or gel packs for delivery, a nice benefit for anyone concerned about packaging waste.)
Some popular options are paneer butter masala, dal makhani, and palak paneer. Desserts are available, too; you can see all the options on the Cumin Club app. I’m ordering rava kichadi next.