Each morning in Mumbai, India, an army of home cooks rises to the sweltering heat and heads to the kitchen to prepare the day's meal. They're not cooking for their families. They're cooking for a delivery man, called a dabbawala, who will arrive in a matter of hours to ferry the intricate meal to some office workers on the other side of the city.
The century-old system has astounded modern-day supply-chain professionals, been the subject of multiple documentaries, and even been studied by the Harvard Business School for its nearly flawless accuracy and efficiency despite operating in a raucous city stuffed with nearly 21 million souls.
Still, the most alluring part of the whole operation is its ability to offer a hot, home-cooked meal, even far away from home. And Annam Miami, a 2-and-a-half-year-old operation run by husband-and-wife team Mathew Webb and Anita Sharma, will do the same for you, albeit only once a week.
Recently, they offered an eggplant rasvangi with a peanut-studded lemon rice and a spicy, cucumber-like pickle called dosa avakaya. The following week, it was a hyderabadi khatti daal, a smoky lentil dish rife with Persian influences and the fragrance of ginger, garlic, red chilies, roasted cumin seeds, and fresh lemon juice. The accompanying basmati rice was tossed in an herbaceous green chutney. Each delivery, enough for about two moderately sized lunches, goes for $21, or you can order a month's supply of four meal delivered once a week for $60. At the moment, the pair's delivery range hugs Biscayne Boulevard from Edgewater to as far north as Biscayne Park and crosses east to Miami Beach.
The service was born years ago when Weber, an architect, and Sharma, a Indian art historian, began hosting Indian dinner parties out of their small New York City studio apartment. After rising rents and an economic recession chased them out of the city, they found themselves living in Sharma's parents' home in Delray Beach.
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"It just reintroduced me to all this brilliant food," Sharma says. "I spent time reconnecting with my mom's food, getting her recipes, cooking them, and meeting with cousins and aunts to get their recipes."
Sharma's family moved to South Florida from the southeast Indian state of Andra Pradesh in 1982. The region's food is starkly different from what the West knows as Indian cuisine, which is primarily Punjabi cuisine from India's northeast. Southeast Indian food is influenced heavily by the region's Telugu community and relies primarily on tomato, tamarind, and lentils. Spicy pickles, which Weber mostly handles for Annam, are also integral to the cuisine, as are coconuts and a panoply of squashes and gourds woven throughout curries and biryani-style dishes.
"These are very region-specific recipes that come from the kitchens of our mothers and grandmothers," Sharma says. "I think that's why people are interested in learning about them."
Order online at annam-miami.com. Orders must be placed by Sunday for Tuesday afternoon or evening delivery.